Member Spotlight: Consistency and Connectivity Are Key When Your Goal is Satisfaction

Bellingham Anesthesia Associates

For Bellingham Anesthesia Associates, anesthesia is not just about a pain-free surgery. They are invested in being a part of the greater surgical team to deliver stellar patient care and service. With a service footprint of 12 facilities in three counties—Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan—they have a range of facility types to satisfy. Within this mix, they provide services for three hospitals, two ambulatory care centers, and a slew of surgical suites.


Though located in the extreme northwest area of Washington, Bellingham Anesthesia Associates (BAA) does not take an extreme approach to the care they provide, preferring instead to be conservative, safe, and patient centric, even if it means canceling a surgery if additional medical workup is deemed necessary. Everyone is unhappy when a planned procedure cannot go forward, but says CEO Carole Lefcourte, “We’re not cowboys. We want to make sure patients are safe and have as few complications as possible.” Luckily, BAA works with surgical centers that are also very invested in pre-operative vigilance.


One way BAA sets themselves apart is that their physicians are comfortable with and skilled at working in a variety of surgical settings. Anesthesia care services are delivered seamlessly from provider to provider, and coverage is guaranteed. This means facilities relying upon their anesthesia services can be confident they have consistent, quality anesthesia resources in place when they need it—whether routine or emergent.


Lefcourte says they accomplish this consistent standard by first hiring the best physicians they can, then onboarding them in a way that provides intense exposure in their larger facilities under the mentorship of their more seasoned team leaders. By training at a larger facility where there are always peers nearby, there is a strong mentorship process in place. Says Lefcourte, “We talk about the BAA brand and what that means in terms of clinical excellence, good citizenship, and value-added service to the surgical team and medical community.” The first few months a provider spends with BAA are an immersion in that brand of care delivery. The result is that their facilities have a consistent, reliable anesthesia resource at all times.


“A few years ago, with patient satisfaction and positive clinical outcomes in mind, we started collecting quality data. We were pretty sure we were doing a good job for our patients, but we wanted to get more than just anecdotal feedback,” says Lefcourte. Because of a sincere interest in knowing how they were doing when compared to national standards, it is now in their framework to measure meaningful performance outcomes. BAA outcomes, in turn, are factored into the overall performance achievements of each facility and can also be used to market themselves to new ones. Now that the ACA and performance-based payments have come along, they are in a good position to demonstrate their value for continued success. Measurement is baked into their framework. While some may focus on the burdens of data tracking and attendant costs, BAA prefers to keep their eyes on the end goal—improving the patient care experience. 

Says Lefcourte, “If you limit the goal to compliance of regulatory standards, then you’re missing the bigger picture. Doesn’t it make more sense to focus instead on how to provide the best patient experience in terms of safety, communication, and patient comfort? Why wouldn’t you want to be looking at the data to help make that happen? Then data collection is in support of your primary goal and government mandates become almost secondary.”


Many procedures can be routine for providers, but for patients, any surgery can be intimidating or frightening. BAA is well aware that they are the last person a patient sees before surgery begins, and usually the first person they see when they wake up. Their relationship is not just with the surgical team at the facility they serve, but also with the patients themselves. While anesthesia providers have a short duration of face time with patients, it is highly concentrated and critically important. “Our providers need to be very skilled communicators to get through a long pre-operative check list while establishing a high level of trust with the patient in a narrow window of time. They need to be kind, reassuring, thorough, and efficient,” says Lefcourte, because they are fostering relationships with patients as members of an entire care team.

“Many of our anesthesiologists have developed a deep ‘fan base’ among patients and are frequently requested by new patients because someone they know recommended them from their own surgery experience. It’s a great word-of-mouth grapevine. We do the best we can to accommodate these requests because we know it’s pivotal to making the patient feel comfortable with the entire surgical process.”

Now, that’s satisfaction.