When I am asked what the single most important aspect of a successful wound care center is, the answer is always the same; a strong physician champion. Let me make this clear, not just a Physician who professes to know wound care, but a real champion who wants the center to be exceptional. I have never seen a program that can truly run well without one.
This past week, our own Physician Champion Stanley Z. Cowen, (he gets mad when I forget the Z) who is our Chief Medical Director, celebrated a birthday. We first started working together around the time of his birthday twelve years ago. I remember us not getting along at all for the first few months that we worked together at Sherman Oaks Hospital. Pretty quickly however, I developed a deep respect for Stan. He loves wound care, is willing to think out of the box, and has a legendary no-nonsense approach that gets results. ("It's not the disease that is making you fat, it's the food you are putting in your mouth that makes you fat" is one of his more memorable patient chats) Dr. Cowen practiced as a General Surgeon in the San Fernando Valley for over 35 years, and came upon Wound Care much the same way most physicians in our industry do; the CEO of the hospital asked him to do it. It started out as just a component of his practice, however it developed into a real passion over time. In 2003, he sold his surgery practice, joined Wound Care Advantage as Medical Director, and started working in three of our Los Angeles centers five days a week. He is a great physician, a strong patient advocate, a fanatic researcher, and is our resident "pot-stirrer" always pushing for better care and results.
As the Medical Director of our company, one of his primary responsibilities is training physicians at our partner hospitals around the country. We have developed a four day boot camp at our Los Angeles offices for each new physician which he heads up. The largest benefit is that these physicians get the insight of someone who understands not just the science and medicine of wound care, but also is intimately knowledgable with the practical day-to day operation of a center including documentation, billing, and patient management.
Over the years, we have put together a list of the top five qualities needed in a medical director:
- A strong local reputation. A center rises or falls solely on referrals. The local reputation of your director will drive the program initially and help sustain it during slower times.
- Surgical Experience. Though I have met exemplary wound physicians with all manner of specialties, the key component to rapid wound healing is aggressive wound debridement. The more comfortable a physician is with with debridement, the better your center's results will be.
- Easy To Get Along With. Your center will run better when the team enjoys their environment. The medical director often sets the tone for the center. Patients will avoid a program if it is uncomfortable or tense. Having a physician who enjoys working with the team and truly approaches wound care as a collaborative effort, will be a key component in a center's success.
- Open To Education. This is a vital quality. Wound Care Centers exist because the standards that most physicians employ for healing a wound have failed our patient population. It is important that wound physicians are open to learning new skills and rejecting old habits.
- Enjoys Wound Care. It may seem obvious, however many physicians get involved with wound care for the wrong reasons. Though it can be financially beneficial for the physician involved, it is a difficult practice and requires a great deal of patience and enthusiasim. If a physician does not enjoy wound care or the results it renders, then that physician could have a far-reaching negative effect on your center.
- I would like to add #6 to our list. They should be Bald. Over the years, I can always tell when Dr. Cowen is getting irratated because his head begins to glow red! This has proven to be very useful.
All joking aside, there is nothing more important than picking and training the right physicians.