Julie no.2[1]By Denise Mann

When Julie Davis, JD, MHA, began working at Ponte Vedra Plastic Surgery & Ambulatory Surgery Center in January 2015, she knew she had her work cut out for her.

The Jacksonville, Fla-based practice comprises six plastic surgeons, 65 employees, four Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners, and five aestheticians all housed in five office locations (with another on the way). And as the large practice’s brand-new executive director, Davis was replacing someone who had been on the job for 10-plus years. She has also “mystery-shopped” the practice during the interview process and had a laundry list of tasks on day 1 as a result.

“The struggle is having the staff accept you. They may be very fearful of somebody new coming in. They don’t know me or my management style, and I was planning to make a lot of process changes,” she says.

Davis needed to hit “refresh” in a big way. “In healthcare, if you are not keeping pace, you are dying on the vine,” she says. Topping her to-do list was improving practice efficiencies and effectiveness, including patient flow from the first phone call to the follow-up after a procedure. Things needed to run more smoothly, and Davis had insight as to where the blockages were from her mystery shopping exercise.

Some of the changes she implemented were simple. Others were more involved: establishing a separate call center, for example, but all sought to drive efficiency and improve patient flow.

“We opened a call center so the folks who work at the front desk can spend their time helping the patients who are right in front of them, whether checking them in or out or answering a question about a product,” she says. “Now we have three patient concierges who do not answer phones and/or multitask.”

Research shows that all leads should be followed up within an hour, and that if no contact is made after 20 hours, that lead is DOA. When the staff is spread too thin, leads slip through the cracks, Davis says.

The call center is located in the same building as the practice, and now experienced, unifocused closers are converting more leads to consults than ever before. There are also separate Internet concierges who handle all online requests of consults or questions.

“I can hear every call when I visit the call center and provide in-the-moment feedback,” she says. Constructive criticism may include credentialing the surgeon earlier in the call and/or bringing up the availability of patient financing.

Whether you are a new-hire or a veteran employee, mystery shop your practice by calling in to request a consult, she suggests. “Sometimes what you find may be shocking, but you do need to know what’s going on,” she says. “Do it routinely to better understand what is or isn’t working.”

Keeping Up with the Times

Davis also ordered a top-to-bottom redo of the practice website. “It was dated aesthetically,” she says. “In the world of surgery, prospective patients want to know that they are going to a doctor who is cutting-edge.”

Davis, also a lawyer, is able to interpret and rewrite documents with a legal eye. She can negotiate a loan with a bank, a contract with an insurance carrier, and draft complicated risk-compliance documents. Right now, she is spending a good deal of her time performing a security risk analysis for the practice to make sure they are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.

“I want to follow letter of law and statute, so that if an auditor walks in our door, they see it in their own language,” she says. Once she has completed this task, Davis plans to publish a best practices paper to help others dealing with similar issues and challenges.

Plastic surgeon Erez Sternberg, MD, is thrilled with the changes that Davis has enacted at the practice. “She has improved efficiencies, camaraderie, and has quickly earned the respect of the employees and the surgeons,” he says.

C. Cayce Rumsey III, MD, another plastic surgeon at the practice, agrees. She is “tireless, detail-oriented, and self-motivated.”

Denise Mann is the editor of Plastic Surgery Practice. She can be reached at [email protected].