ASCs can drive significantly lower implant prices with the support and involvement of their surgeons. Even a few key words of surgeon support invoked at the right time can mean several thousands of dollars in savings. But effectively getting surgeon support is easier said than done. Here are six steps to take to gain their support.
1. Get early buy-in. Before you contact any vendors (e.g., for a new request for proposal process), let the surgeons know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You want to be the one who controls the initial messaging to the surgeon, rather than risk having the sales rep be the first person to notify (and complain to) the surgeon and undermine your efforts.
2. Make it easy. Surgeons are busy. Ensure that their support requires minimal time and effort. Having the surgeon simply tell their reps/vendors “I support this cost-cutting initiative” will give you significant power at the negotiating table. Consider also ghostwriting simple emails that the surgeon can send to the vendors; this will allow you to include the messaging you want, yet require minimal time from the surgeon.
3. Ease the fear of change. Surgeons often feel a very strong commitment to the relationship with their sales rep (or the rep’s company) that may conflict with any obligations to the ASC. Surgeons will likely oppose any initiative that hints it could affect their preferred vendors, especially if there is little or no upside for them. Make it clear (assuming this is the case) that you have no intent to impact their preferred products, reps or routine; you simply want fair implant prices for the facility.
4. Educate on pricing. Many surgeons are unaware of the typical costs of the implants they use. If you’re asking them to support specific price points, provide them with a simple table that shows prices of similar items they use. Implant invoices from their actual surgeries, along with comparison/target pricing, may also help put the pricing in a context they quickly understand.
5. Play your “surgeon” card at the right time. If you’re at an impasse on pricing for a key item, ask your surgeon to verbally ask the rep to support the requested pricing. Telling a surgeon “no” is one of the last things a sales rep wants to do, and this simple, direct request can be the key to reaching a price point not otherwise achievable. Limit the request for one or two important products that will have the biggest impact on your budget, so the surgeon can feel he or she is not asking too much and the vendor can feel like it’s an isolated concession.
6. Bring in third-party expertise. If your goal is to cut costs across an entire service line, consider engaging outside experts who specialize in that service line. Such experts have the experience to tactfully engage surgeons (respecting their time and existing vendor relationships), and put implant pricing in a clinical and technical context that surgeons understand and are more likely to support. Leveraging their expertise will not only offload the time commitment from your materials management staff, but ensure you get the surgeon support needed to extract the greatest amount of savings possible.