The importance of surgery in general practice – it’s more than medicine
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an enterprising practice owner or a young veterinary associate saddled with debt – you want to optimize your earnings. Good clinical practice should do that for you, but it has to be holistic, in that you can’t thrive financially if you provide the lower value services while your colleagues spend their time on the others.
You’ll want to focus on the mix of services you actually deliver, ensuring that you provide a balanced portfolio of wellness care and problem case work-ups – including surgery.
General practitioners who cut have higher average transaction fees overall. Although the increasing access to boarded surgeons has raised the standards of care in the profession, there are still many procedures that are appropriately performed in general practice – bladder surgery, splenectomies, GI foreign bodies and routine lumps and bumps. It doesn’t take surgical boards to take on complex orthopedic procedures, as long as you’re dedicated to acquiring the requisite skills. It’s not about avoiding referrals, but being able to confidently recommend and then deliver routine surgical care.
Individual practitioners clearly benefit financially from performing surgery, as does the practice itself. What’s not always obvious to owners is the impact on service mix to the eventual valuation of their practice. If most of the surgery in the practice is performed by just one doctor – especially if that doctor is an owner looking forward to retirement – there’s a risk of losing a significant income stream at that time and the challenge of finding a suitable replacement.
Surgical ability remains an important part of a general practitioner’s skill set. Since students don’t graduate with a uniform grounding in surgery, practice owners should mentor and help train their associates and newer practitioners, and need to take charge in developing and maintaining their own skills.
A chance to cut is, after all, a chance to cure.
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