In the past few months I’ve been asked a couple of times what advice I would give to someone that is opening a practice from scratch. And in the same conversation I’m asked, do you think, considering everything that is going on now, if it is a good idea to open a medical practice.
My short answer is, go for it! My long answer is, well, more complicated.
First, I think it is important to assess one’s priorities and determine the true motivation for opening up the practice. Motivation – or the reason why – is very important because if one opens the clinic for the wrong reasons, failure is often the consequence.
Here is why… during the journey of opening one’s own medical practice, one will no doubt be challenged, get burned out and perhaps even question if this was the right thing to do or ask yourself if this is even worth it. If one’s motivation is fragile and things get tough, the likelihood one will preserver through it will be more difficult.
Thus, in our experience, the motivation has to be more than money, be your own boss or just to say you have your “own” practice.
So the question for me isn’t whether the conditions are right to open up a practice, but rather, do you have the right motivation to open up a practice in this environment. Because what one selects as the reason is what will give you the strength to forge ahead regardless of good or bad times.
Once you’ve settled that, then you can move on.
I jotted down these 12 points regarding opening up a practice. They aren’t really advice or tips per se, but more my thoughts. Here we go:
- First thing first… join SOAPM. What is SOAPM? Glad you asked. Go here and here to find out.
- Location, location, location. Just like any other business, location is very important. Research the area. Figure out the type of “patient mix”, demographics, access and all those great things that make a great location. Tip: Census data can help you get started with this research.
- Understand that working for yourself is going to be more stressful and more difficult than working for someone else. Why? Because the buck stops with you.
- Although the work is more stressful and probably work more than you’ve ever worked in your life, the personal and professional rewards will be much greater than you’ve ever experienced (and potentially even greater financially).
- Understand that the practice is a “business” just like anything else. What that means is that at the end of the day, more money has to come in than go out. Don’t forget that because you can’t help people in need if you are in need.
- As soon as you can, hire a real business manager.
- Be prepared to make sacrifices. For example, sacrifice time with your family.
- I’d recommend finding “consultants” to help you get things in order. They will cost you money but it is a good investment. Also, find people to handle your hospital and insurance company credentialing process.
- Try to find other “solo” physicians in the area that you can share the on call schedule with you. Otherwise be prepared to work 24/7 until you find another doc.
- Although it is expensive, start the practice with a good EMR and a very good Practice Management software. Thanks to Obama, there is an opportunity to get financial help with this expense.
- Join a physician buying group ASAP. This will help you offset one of the largest expenses in a pediatric office (i.e., vaccines). Group Purchasing Groups will also help you get discounts on other items.
- Remember, if failure is not an option, either is success.
This list is not comprehensive. There are many, many more things to consider. But I figure it is enough to get you thinking about a few things before you begin the process.
The AAP also has some resources in this area: For example, Practice Management Consultant
For those that started a practice recently, what advice, tips or pearls of wisdom would you give someone that was starting today?