Just about everything that figures into the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics' mode of practice happens by design rather than default. The Tennessee-based group made a calculated and remarkably successful move from sports medicine into sub-specialization in the mid 1990s and became the first physician practice in the area to engage in visible marketing. Also, each of the 10 physicians in this decidedly 'young' practice — most of the doctors are in their 30s or early 40s — subscribes to an enviable work ethic that entails long hours, a commitment to patient-centric service and active involvement in the community.
"Some years ago we decided to go from a group of generalists with an emphasis in sports medicine to a sub-specialty practice — and it's really worked for us," says Robert Wilsie, the group's longtime business manager. By sub-specializing in hand, spine, and total joint orthopaedics, Wilsie says, the group's physicians found they were "no longer competing for the same patient base and started doing better financially."
Today, the Center, which grew from four physicians in 1987 to its current 10, has made a name for itself precisely because of its strong emphasis on sub-specialization and its insistence on hiring only physicians who have completed post-residency fellowships.
Aggressive marketing initiatives have paid big dividends, as well. The practice has a full-time marketing professional on staff who spearheads the physicians' presentations on the group's surgical expertise areas and develops effective radio spots and TV commercials. About once a week, one of the group's physicians makes an appearance on local TV health shows, and all of the physicians are involved in some manner in local sports.
In addition, the Center maintains a comprehensive Web site that provides full details on the practice and its research initiatives, and includes such helpful features as a sports injury 'hotlink' and glossary, and an ask-the-specialist function. "We tell the community about all the different services we offer, and we have a strong athletic training outreach," Wilsie says. "What we've found is that if we capture the patients who had their knees fixed in high school, they come back to us in their 20s — and their parents come to us when they have problems."
Wilsie describes the group's work ethic as a collective mindset, based in a shared philosophy that needs neither verbalization nor formal documentation.
"Basically, all of the doctors work really hard, and it pays off in good income for them," and a strong bottom line for the group, Wilsie says, despite the heavy fee-for-service discounting that has hit the Chattanooga area in recent years.
The compensation formula is about 90 percent productivity based, and doctors have as-requested access to monthly productivity reports. If there's a challenge on the productivity front, Wilsie quips, it's "getting our physicians to remember that there's life along with doctoring."
Bonnie Darves can be reached via [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2000 issue of Physicians Practice.