There’s a reason mergers are popping up just as fast as cyber-security companies. Merging small or medium-sized surgical practices can save money, improve buying power to negotiate better deals with insurance companies and block time, and even improve patient care. And while surgery practice mergers can be a very worthwhile endeavor, they are a complicated process, nonetheless. Your practice’s brand, workflow, staffing, locations, and financial partnership agreements are all very important considerations when planning a merger. The way these items are handled can significantly affect the success of your merger.
Here are some important challenges (with solutions) to keep in mind when planning your merger:
1. Guard Your Practice’s Brand
You’ve built up a successful, growing, surgical practice – either with a company name or with specific surgeons’ names and profiles. So it’s often best to focus on retaining the strengths of each business’ brand and build out what you already have, rather than start from scratch. Retaining your name brings recognition, patient confidence, and positive recommendations to your business. It also allows future patients to find your practice through existing URLs, online reviews, and word of mouth.
Together with your new partners, you’ll need to determine whether to maintain one of the practice’s brands or rebrand entirely. Once you’ve decided what you’ll be calling the new practice, let patients know as soon as possible and begin forming (or strengthening) a local and online presence. The more marketing you can do, the easier a large change in brand name, logo, and website will be. If you’d like to reduce marketing costs, consider a change that still reflects both prior practices’ names and core values.
It is important to remember that there are two (or more) practice brands that now need to be combined. This means figuring out technicalities like a website. You’ll want to retain the strengths of each business’ website, but it’s best to utilize the URL that has the strongest search engine optimization (SEO) and monthly visitors. And then reroute the other practice’s website’s links to the stronger (or new) website. Once the new or updated website is established, it needs to be marketed appropriately. Keeping popular and well-known surgeon names in the public eye (either through social media or local publications), will reassure current patients of the stability of the practices, and it’s also critical to remind your clientele that your customer care will only improve with the merger.
2. Build New Workflow and Technology
Integrating your clinical systems is a hurdle, but far from an insurmountable one. The decision making process can definitely be tricky. As with your branding, open up communication with your new partners about which systems you are happy with and would like to retain, which new systems you would be keen to implement or explore, and which systems you would be okay with leaving behind.
Along with the usual suspects (EHR, PM, PACS), it’s wise to work out which billing services and payroll you plan to use, which ancillary services you’ll continue to use, and which legal counsel and accounting services you’ll retain. Transparency with your staff about upcoming changes to their day-to-day technology use can go a very long way in making this process satisfying and smooth for employees and management of both practices.
The changes in the technology implemented can greatly impact the workflow around surgery scheduling. It will be important to determine how the new practice will process and coordinate surgeries. This entails deciding which physical office(s) will be used for this task, what technology will be used for scheduling and workflow management, and whether patients will meet face-to-face with schedulers. It’s often a good opportunity to start afresh with this sort of workflow and iron out the details in advance, to create an optimal process once the merger takes place.
3. Smooth Out Staffing and Management
Figuring out technology is one thing, but the topic of manpower and staff is often a more delicate one. There are a few issues that need to be resolved in this regard, including who will lead the practice and who will sit on the leadership team. Don’t forget: each practice brings with it its own team of executives, and there’s no assurance that each position will be maintained in the new practice. Be sure to reconcile this early on, as new positions may need to be created or restructured. And more importantly, some staff members may be left out of a job and need to plan accordingly.
This applies to staff beyond the leadership team as well. If some positions will be made redundant, now’s the time to discuss how and when you plan to broach this with your staff. Letting employees go can be difficult but crucial for the continued success of your business. Your office locations may also change, allowing some flexibility to move staff around if possible. That too should be clarified as part of your merger.
These changes open up discussion on the work environment and benefits of the newly-merged practice. Employee satisfaction is a large part of any restructuring, and an important one at that. You may currently have varying amounts of sick leave, maternity and childcare leave, retirement contributions, and even paid salaries. This all needs to be streamlined in a way that is fair to employees and not burn any bridges. All of these changes need to be communicated to employees in a respectful manner, and expect that there will be many discussions that need to take place with HR in order to ensure a happy team.
Forward Planning is Key for a Successful Merger
Merging your surgical practice can be a great way to grow your business and offer a wider variety of specialist services and physicians. Buying or merging surgical practices can often facilitate swift growth and is widely desired by the surgeons. But in order to make a merger successful, it has to be carefully planned and implemented. Cover as many details in advance as possible and communicate as much as you can about the upcoming changes to your staff and clientele. This will leave everyone involved feeling confident for a smooth transition.