You don’t have to be a superhero to exercise significant power; you just have to have a persuasive message.
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AAOS Now

Published 8/1/2015
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Jessica Metros

P Is for POWER

How to create higher visibility for your orthopaedic practice

As an orthopaedic practice executive, I recognize the importance of raising the visibility of our orthopaedic practice—Bone and Joint Specialists in Merrillville, Ind. I would like to share three ways that remembering “P is for power” can help.

Practice managers may outsource certain services—such as transcription or billing—to decrease overhead. One area that many orthopaedic practices outsource is lobbying local, state, and national legislators. But lobbying is the first way that “P is for power” can help raise practice visibility.

I spent more than 25 years working with politicians. As a manager of national, state, and local campaigns, I learned early how to effectively trigger responses with persuasive messaging to create a powerbase.

Lobbying power
An orthopaedic practice—as a business—has no greater voice or opportunity for change than at the local government level. The first step to creating higher visibility for an orthopaedic practice is to identify the local mayor or town council president—as well as the direct representative on the city or town council.

Once those individuals are identified, the practice needs to begin building relationships with them, always remembering that “they” work for you. Your power rests in the local property taxes that the practice pays and the number of people that it employs. Orthopaedic practices, whether located in small towns or major metropolitan areas, can have a sizable impact on employment.

I use my local “P is for lobbying power” to facilitate issues that affect the practice’s bottom line—things like utility fees, property taxes, tax abatements for development purposes—and to have a built-in platform at monthly council meetings to announce any events or projects at the practice. The local newspaper reporter attends every monthly council meeting. My attendance at public meetings and my addresses during public comment sessions enable me to define the practice as a good corporate citizen.

Additionally, I can feed the local media with a ready-made article that can result in free publicity for the practice. The ultimate payoff is higher visibility of the physicians and our practice brand.

Legislative power
A practice that has developed a “go-to” relationship with local elected officials has an open door to the state house. Often, depending on party affiliation, mayors, town councils, and state house representatives have strong ties. One depends on the other to get out the vote, which means re-election. If a practice wants to get the attention of a state representative or state senator, it can tap into a direct link through its “mayor BFF” (best friend forever) or “council representative BFF.” This gives rise to “P is for legislative power.”

For example, in Indiana, the pharmacy lobby successfully introduced legislation that had a negative impact on the dispensing of approved narcotic pain relief drugs to Workers’ Compensation (WC) patients through our practice by implementing an 8-day limit from the time of injury to a doctor’s appointment. As a result, our practice profitability was affected.

I am using the “P is for legislative power” to overturn the law by working with local politicians and educating district house and senate representatives. The media will learn that the pharmacy lobby has had a negative impact on patients by removing the treating specialist from WC narcotic pain management. Certainly an insured patient would complain loudly if he or she was forced to wait 8 days after an injury before seeing a specialist!

Local power
The third “P is for local power” is to inform affected stakeholders about this non–patient-friendly state law. Taxes and legislation affect the bottom line of every physician. I now have a reason to host an exchange of ideas among all of the practice’s referring doctors, the public, and their local governmental representatives. Having this event at the clinic’s corporate office supports the “P is for local power” because it legitimizes my doctors as legislative power brokers and ultimately creates a higher visibility for our practice.

The invited politicians see this event as an opportunity to rub elbows with constituents who have deep pockets, which may yield campaign contributions. The referring doctors receive one-on-one time with their legislative representatives, which may ultimately empower the individual referring doctor. If I plan and hold the event during a time when our federal representative or senator is in district, their attendance will add to higher visibility for my doctors and our practice.

Measurable results
“P is for power” will produce measureable results in raising practice visibility and reinforcing our brand. Pursuing the goal of changing this law will lead to media coverage as well as legitimate “face time” with referring physicians who derive a qualified direct benefit from our relationship. It also creates a perfect storm for constituent complaints. Nothing will grab the political servant with more vigor than 10 phone calls and letters from constituents complaining about the same problem.

The environment is now primed for a letter-writing and phone-call campaign to state legislators about the need to repeal this law. We are one step closer to rescinding a law that has had a negative impact on WC patient care and practice profitability. Our doctors and practice brand will be viewed as patient advocates, leading to higher visibility due to our concerted efforts.

This article originally appeared in the American Association of Orthopaedic Executives (AAOE) newsletter and is adapted with permission.

Jessica Metros is the business manager for Bone and Joint Specialists in Merrillville, Ind., and chair of the AAOE Communications Council. She can be reached at jmetros@bjsortho.org