Jump in with Amy Anderson – the Surgeon Whisperer

October 20, 2021

Today’s special guest, Amy Anderson started working in the plastic surgery industry at age 18. Amy is a founding partner of BrinsonAnderson Consulting and uses her unique background to help physicians successfully run their practice. Tune in as we zoom in on specific actions for your medical practice to focus on as we move into 2022.

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Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at info@byrdadatto.com.

Transcript

Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues, simplified through real client stories and real world experiences. Creating simplicity in three, two, one.

Brad: Welcome back to another episode of Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto I’m your host Brad Adatto with my cohost Michael Byrd.

Michael: Thanks Brad, as a business and healthcare law firm details matter. This season’s theme is zoom in. Once we know our big picture vision or strategy, we have to roll up our sleeves to get the work done. With each episode this season we’ll have our typical stories and make sure we talk about specific actions to focus on for 2022.

Brad: Love it. So Michael, I was wondering, since it’s just you and me and no one else is listening right now, what are we going to talk about for today’s show?

Michael: Very funny, Brad. You know we have a special guest today.

Brad: But you know, I think of the two of us, I’m really the free spirit [00:01:00] of the group. So I was trying to be more free spirited.

Michael: Well, of the two of us, this is true, except I do think it’s actually against the law for a lawyer to be a free spirit.

Brad: It’s probably true.

Michael: But it is okay to be adventurous. And did you know that our guest today bungee jumped over Victoria Falls in Africa, on her recent honeymoon?

Brad: Wow. So she’s adventurous in two different ways. Number one, she bungee jumped off the world’s largest waterfall and adventurous because she actually got married. Did she do it at the same time? You think she got married and jumped at the same time? Probably not. All right, Michael let’s focus back on you because I know you’d like that. What was the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Michael: Well, first we need to call out that was very dad jokey of you to say, oh, she got married, very adventurous. Um, but that’s okay. What have I done? Well, I’ve actually tried to avoid the question because I’m far from a thrill seeker. So to paint the picture a little bit, when [00:02:00] we used to go in junior high to Six Flags Over Texas, which is a theme park, I was terrified to ride roller coasters. And so I was also a less than confident junior high aged kid. So it was brutal to figure out how I was going to basically be a wallflower for an entire day with my entire class and not get stuck on a roller coaster. And finally, I found one guy who was on the football team. He would ride basically the kid’s version of a roller coaster, the runaway mine train, which is not very scary and we rode that over and over again.

Brad: There you go. You made a friend!

Michael: I did bungee jump once.

Brad: Is this when you were in high school, right? So you probably were in high school when you bungee jumped. And is that the same time you were dating that girl from Niagara Falls?

Michael: Ouch, Brad. We said we weren’t going to [00:03:00] talk about that. And she was real. I had a picture. And too soon. No, actually I bungee jumped off of a crane in south Padre island, Texas. So here’s the footnote to my, not being a thrill seeker. We’ll just say college, maybe a little older, I discovered alcohol and it gives you confidence. And so I did start riding roller coasters in college if I had some confidence. And when I graduated from law school, I must’ve been having my first existential life crisis and had several beers and decided that it would be a good idea to bungee jump in south Padre Island. It was over 25 years ago. And actually that bungee, the crane is still there today where you can go and bungee jump.

Brad: I bet its real safe.

Michael: What about you? What was [00:04:00] you’re most adventurous thing?

Brad: Well, up until recently, probably a lot of people would think the most interesting I’ve ever done was be a Saints fan because for a long time, the Saints were known on the aints and season after season my poor dad and I would show up and we would think this is the season’s going to work and then of course we would lose again. But that all obviously changed in 2009, we won the super bowl for those who didn’t know. I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but yes, we did win a super bowl in 2009 with Drew Bree’s, leading us there. However, if you pulled my family, they would probably all agree that the time I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to raise awareness for some non-profits that work with military and first responders that probably would have been the most adventurous thing I did. And I would do it again tomorrow, but most likely would be divorced because my wife did not like that idea of jumping.

Michael: So I have two comments. Number one, thank you for answering that question by not saying partnering [00:05:00] with you, Michael. And number two, I totally agree because I remember the chaos amongst your family, not just your wife, your entire family revolted against Brad for deciding to jump out of a plane.

Brad: All right. No more adventure talk. Let’s be more adventurous and bring on our guest today.

Michael: So joining us today is Amy Anderson. Amy graduated from Indiana University, both undergrad and her MBA. She’s a founding partner of Brinson Anderson Consulting. Amy started working in the plastic surgery industry at 18 part-time at that time and has uniquely worked every nonclinical job in that type of office setting. Some have called her the surgeon whisper, which makes me really jealous because I don’t know if you remember, Alex actually introduced me that way in San Diego. So we may have to have a competition. [00:06:00] She is married to Ben and who is a physician assistant in orthopedics and also I guess a bungee jumper. Welcome.

Amy: Good morning. Hi Michael. Hi Brad. Thanks for having me.

Brad: Yeah, absolutely. Before we started this podcast, you let out a little secret. This is your first time on a podcast.

Amy: It is. I’m thrilled to be making my debut appearance with you guys.

Brad: Well, up until recently we only did podcasts in which we didn’t have video and now we have video because both of us have faces for radio. So we’re glad to have you on with us because that will definitely help. I think we’ll just turn our camera off and just have you on the whole time.

Michael: Sounds like a better idea for sure. At least get it off Brad.

Brad: Yes, definitely off me. Well, we’re excited to have you day and we’ve been talking about bungee jumping a lot, so let’s start there. Tell us what was it like jumping off [00:07:00] the Victoria Falls.

Amy: Yeah. So it was kind of a spur of the moment decision because who really plans to go bungee jumping. We were on our honeymoon and they were offering it and we looked at each other and said, why not? Let’s try this. The best description I have when they get you all bound up your, your legs all tied together and they have you kind of shuffle out to the edge of the platform. I feel like every cell in my body was screaming at me to get back. The survival instinct of this is such a bad idea. Don’t do it. But they just count it down so fast 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and you fling yourself off and you scream and it’s the most terrifying and thrilling experience ever. I don’t need to ever do it again but I’m glad to say I’ve done it once.

Michael: Fair enough. I would definitely brag [00:08:00] about it. If I had done it. That’s amazing. And by the way, around six beers also helps. I have not been back myself either off a much, much smaller jump. So I want to hear a little bit more, I’m curious, I’d love to hear about your experiences starting in the business of plastic surgery at 18 and how you developed a passion for the aesthetic industry.

Amy: Yeah. So I always tell people it’s, it’s just amazing where life takes us and we set off down a path and it takes us in a different direction than we originally intended. So undergrad, I was pre-med. I fully intended to go to medical school and it was my second semester of college and there was a plastic surgery group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is where I grew [00:09:00] up that had just two groups had just merged. And there was an opening for a phone operator. And let me tell you, I wasn’t, I didn’t even have a computer. I wasn’t allowed to make an appointment. I literally just answered the phone and could transfer calls. I mean, it was that entry level but it was a great part-time job while I was in school. And that evolved into I learned medical records. So yes, I am young enough to remember paper charts. I grew up in the era of paper charts and learned the front desk, learned to work in the skin care spa, started doing prior authorizations for instance. I basically said yes to any opportunity to learn a position. And by the time I got to the end of undergrad, I realized I really liked working in the office and I just seem to naturally be inclined to filling those different roles. I enjoyed being in [00:10:00] medicine, being around surgeons. I also have developed an appreciation, not just for aesthetics, but all of plastic and reconstructive surgery. The surgeons there covered the burn unit, they did craniofacial surgery, lots of breast reconstruction. So I had a really well-rounded approach to plastic surgery and then kind of fast forward, one of the doctors left and started his own practice. And I continued with him and became his practice manager probably when I was too young and really had no business being the manager. But we learned together, we made the mistakes together and learned the lessons that experience will teach you. I continued my career down that path.

Michael: Did you go get your MBA later or right out of school, out of undergrad?

Amy: Yeah. Right after undergrad. I was kind of applying to medical schools, deciding if I really wanted to commit this [00:11:00] 10 years of my life to more school and decided to switch routes and do an MBA and stay on the business side of healthcare and realizing that I felt like I could still make a difference in people’s lives and have that fulfillment without being the person doing hands-on patient care.

Michael: When did you switch over to the consulting side after coming out of the day-to-day of working in the practice?

Amy: Yeah. So I worked in a private practice, went to a children’s hospital in Indianapolis for a few years and it was over all of the employed pediatric specialists. There went to a university and was over an academic division. And so kind of had my experience in all of those different practice environments and along the way I had met Karen Zupko, who’s very well known in this space and she and I became friends and I really saw her as a mentor. [00:12:00] Connected with her again, and basically she asked if I had ever considered consulting. And so that was a dream come true. Certainly an honor to be invited by Karen Zupko to join her. So I moved to Chicago, really trained with her learned from the very best, and haven’t looked back. I feel like I get to apply my experience and all of those different practice environments. And now I can share that with even more doctors. As a consultant, I can work with several cross specialties and across the country work at a higher level and not necessarily get inundated with kind of the day-to-day operations that sometimes, you know, managers get stuck in.

Brad: Well, I know that this is going to really hurt Michael a lot so I definitely want to ask this question. Why are you a better surgeon whisper than he is?

Amy: Well, I’m trying to think who originally called me that. [00:13:00] I take the ticket as quite a compliment. I guess the best I can give as an example of, one of the hospitals I worked out for a period of time, the COO called me in and offered me a position that really I had no business being offered, to basically develop like the cancer service line, which I had no experience in. I just asked him, I said, I’m really flattered, but why me? You know, what made you think of me for this? And he reflected back to a meeting we were in. There probably 10 of us and one of the surgeons was very upset, very vocal about it. And he said, I saw the way you handled that situation and the way you were able to defuse him. I thought if you can handle him, you can handle anything. And you’re the person I want on my team and it was the highest compliment. But really I think surgeons certainly have high expectations, really high standards. As [00:14:00] patients we all certainly want that. Sometimes the communication can be a little difficult and I guess I just find a way to figure out how to communicate with them and can usually get past the frustration and anger and really get at their problem and just been able to work with them without issue.

Michael: Well, what’s kind of behind that, it’s a fun term to call and to joke about, um, me potentially being better than you, I’m just kidding. But what it really means is that you’re able to get their trust. And so that means you can really help them. And it’s so powerful. I know that we both have seen that with you and your ability to have the surgeons be open to advice and it really sets us up and makes it easy for us when you ask us to help, because they’re [00:15:00] kind of already following your lead. Well, so let’s switch you now have done another adventurous thing in the last year, I believe, and started your own business, Brinson Anderson consulting. Tell us about that and I’d love to just hear the kinds of services that you guys were providing.

Amy: Yeah. So my business partner, Cheyenne Brinson, she and I were both working together with Karen Zupko and both of us had dreams for many years of starting a business, we kind of had that entrepreneurial spirit that was just waiting to break loose and one of the things that we do as consultants is we go into practices. We do an overall evaluation and assessment and we give recommendations. And a lot of times that’s the entire scope of the work. Here’s the recommendations we debrief, [00:16:00] we put it in writing and we kind of wish them the best of luck. I was getting frustrated because time and time again, when I would check in a few months later, nothing had been done. And really realizing that doctors don’t often, it’s not a gap of what needs to be done, it’s actually how to do it, how to implement those ideas, how to work the team through those processes. We started Brinson Anderson so that we could work on a deeper level with surgeons. We kind of call ourselves virtual administrators. Many of our practices are small businesses, either solo practitioners or small groups of doctors, and they may not have the capacity for a six figure practice administrator to run the day-to-day operations of their practice. And so we can fill that gap kind of on a part-time level, if you will, by coaching their [00:17:00] management team, filling in for some HR support. We’re not an HR company and it doesn’t replace legal HR advice but we can certainly support in hiring and personnel management type things. Because we work with surgeons, plastic surgeons, as well as orthopedic surgeons, ENT’s, neurosurgeons, those are kind of our core specialties. We also oversee the revenue cycle. So all things related to billing and insurance, the things that make most of us want to fall asleep. But how to either manage our staff internally who are doing the reimbursement processes, or if you have an outside billing company, we like to be the liaison with them. Most doctors will say the billing company doesn’t do enough. And usually again, that’s just a communication gap. And so we’ll work closely with them. I find that in the last several months, I feel like my practice has [00:18:00] shifted that I’m doing a lot of coaching. My desire is not that doctors need me forever. I want to help them get their practice into a good stable situation and equipped to move forward without me and not dependent. So it’s coaching surgeons on how to be good business owners and how to be a good leader of their own team. It’s coaching managers on some, a lot of them, and a lot of managers in practices have just been there long enough, right? They elevated to manage your role because they’ve been there the longest and are decent at the job, but maybe don’t have the formal management training. And so we can fill that gap by coaching them through handling difficult situations. And then the other specific position, I do a lot of training with those patient care coordinators in a plastic surgery office, you know, that’s kind of your sales person and the lifeblood of the practice. I do a lot [00:19:00] of training on how to enhance their skills and ultimately increase their surgery bookings.

Brad: All which makes sense. And you know, you and I have spoken at many conferences before to plastic surgery groups. And it sounds like at least you have one up on Michael because you’re a better surgeon whisper than him. But I know that you have heavily worked with a lot of plastic surgeons. So what is your super power that you have with these plastics?

Amy: Oh, my super power. I don’t know if this is exactly a superpower but I feel like I have a unique ability to see the forest and the trees and to take that 10,000 foot vision that the doctor has and I immediately go to, how can we make this happen? And because I’ve done all the jobs and sat in those chairs, I can very quickly go from big picture to granular details and [00:20:00] put together a project plan and coach the staff through how to do it. I sometimes joke that I’m like the three-year-old that’s always asking why. I’m just constantly, why do we do it that way? Well, but why, but why? And I really want a good reason. Like not because it’s just the way we’ve always done it. So I’m constantly questioning processes. Asking, can we do it better? And the answer is almost always yes. Can we be more efficient? I guess if I had to say I had a superpower, it’s really taking that big picture and getting down into the details quickly and discerning the best path forward to make that happen.

Michael: Well, before we let you go, I’m going to take advantage of that super power with this question. So this season our theme is zoom in and we’re really trying to give people some takeaways for 2022 on some actions they can do. So with your [00:21:00] operational experience and your superpower, I’d love to hear some thoughts on things surgeons can focus on for 2022.

Amy: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, undoubtedly 2020, the second half of 2020 and 2021 has been just a rollercoaster of a ride but most practices have seen unprecedented growth, right? Surgeons are busier than ever and with that has come a lot of hiring, maybe some staff turnover, adding services, and adding providers. And when you have rapid growth, problems can happen. The biggest advice I have is first of all, focusing on your people. Surgeons tend to hire very quickly and sometimes we should slow down that process a little bit. I like to say that hiring should be a lot like dating. Let’s not get married on the first date. Let’s take time [00:22:00] and find the right person. I also say, you’ve got to go with your gut. There’s a lot of really good people out there, but it doesn’t mean that they are right fit for you. And so doing a better job at hiring, focusing on what is the skillset you need, and what’s the personality that’s going to fit with your team and your culture. And then the next step is not just finding the right person, but it’s really investing in some training. And that’s a big gap in small practices, especially because usually when we hire, we’re kind of desperate for someone and we just throw them in and then six months later we’re frustrated because they didn’t ever really figure out the job. That’s something I’ve been working with a lot of practices on putting together a more structured training program to set people up for success. I think one of the best investments a surgeon can make in their practice is their people, because then ultimately the surgeon wants to focus on patients, on doing [00:23:00] surgery and if we have a good team in place to take care of everything else, then they can focus on what they do best, which is being a doctor.

Brad: That’s music to our ears, we a hundred percent agree with almost everything you just said on that people piece. That hiring too fast could be a disaster in so many different ways. We see it obviously on the legal side, but you’re seeing it also how it can be on the operational side. Amy, we started this podcast with you saying this is your first one that you’ve ever done. I think you’re lying to us. You’re like awesome at this. So you must have done other podcasts you failed to tell us, but it is a superpower. She’s a podcast whisper.

Amy: You guys made it very easy. Thank you.

Brad: Well, we’re so thankful that you could join us today.

Michael: Absolutely and so what we’ll do, Amy is we’ll let you go and we’ll break for commercial. On the other side, Brad and I will discuss our observations from a legal perspective.  

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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto and I’m still here with my cohost Michael Byrd. Michael I was so thankful to Amy first off that she joined us for our first podcast ever, because as we were saying, she crushed it. But you know, its tough running a successful business and running a business in general. And especially when you start falling into the medical community, it’s not very easy. [00:25:00]

Michael: Yeah, no doubt. And I love her comment about being able to see the forest and the trees, because the details matter. And you know I can kind of lose my focus pretty quickly with that. I’m more of a big picture guy and I don’t have that same superpower. With this season, the theme being zoom in, she’s a perfect guest for that. She really had a unique perspective with her background.

Brad: What I loved about her in a lot of different ways. You’re talking about someone who went literally from answering the phone to now actually helping run practices. And so she knows the details. She was great for that especially for this season with zoom in. Michael, let’s hit that pause button like we like to do at the end of every episode and let’s talk about the specific actions that you should be [00:26:00] concentrating on for 2022.

Michael: Well, I’m just going to jump off of her. This is maybe not as much legal as normal, but it does go back to, there is a lot of policies that you have to have in a medical practice to maintain compliance and there’s policies you have to manage your legal risks through your employee handbook, and then you just have your operational policies to run your business efficiently. And she had some great thoughts on that about executing on that. I would just say something that you and I talk about that is a challenge for a lot of practices is to focus on how you’re going to hold your team accountable if they don’t follow your policies. So it’s one thing to have the piece of paper that says here’s our HIPAA compliance plan [00:27:00] or here’s our handbook. But what are we actually going to do if someone’s not following it?

Brad: First off completely disagree with everything you said, but I would agree that having good policies and procedures are important. And forcing your policies and procedures reporting, which means that there’s something that she said also said that a lot of groups don’t like to deal with this, which is the training side of it, that educational aspect of you being the practice, hitting that pause button and finding once a week to sit down with your team for 30 minutes, it’s hard. We all get it that you’re running so fast to keep the lights on, but by slowing down and training your team as to what are the expectations, letting them know, hey, this is a policy procedure that we have which is why, of course, we started ByrdAdatto University because we think training is so important for our own employees. I think she nailed that is when you bring on these new hires, they need to [00:28:00] understand it. And then while they’re still there, they continually have to understand it. So that six months later, you’re wondering why this person you hired can’t do their job. Did you ever reflect, did I ever train them?

Michael: Yeah. And I think we need to acknowledge the first vocabulary word for the day when Brad said he completely disagrees with something that means he begrudgingly agrees. So those of you haven’t heard us before are probably wondering what in the world Brad just mentioned

Brad: I just completely disagree with you. I agree with everything Amy said though.

Michael: For the record, he agrees with Amy. So putting a bow on it, Brad we started talking about jumping off of big waterfalls and girlfriends from Niagara Falls and more than that, just being adventurous and it can be adventurous [00:29:00] to deal with human issues in your business and to engage them directly, create the policies, and of course actually hold people to them is challenging, but it’s worth it for the business. If you don’t believe us, believe Amy, because she’s awesome at her job.

Brad: Totally agree with that. We are thankful that she could join us. For next Wednesday, our show will address protecting your network from cyber-attacks, we have Gary Salman with us. It’s going to be awesome.

Outro: Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you liked this episode, please subscribe. Make sure to give us a five- star rating and share with your friends. You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at byrdadatto.com. ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not constitute legal advice, [00:30:00] nor does it establish an attorney- client relationship. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an atto

ByrdAdatto founding partner Brad Adatto

Bradford E. Adatto

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

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