7 Tips for Opening a Successful Private Medicine Practice

If you are a physician that operates a traditional medical practice and you’re thinking about converting it to a shutterstock_75683590private medicine practice, or you’re a new primary care physician just starting out, there are a few things you should know to ensure that your practice is as successful as possible. Here are seven tips to help you get a bustling medical office up and running so you can meet your personal and financial goals.

1: Develop a Business Plan

As a healthcare provider you may not have thought that someday you would need to know the basics of opening and running a business, but if you’re a private doctor you definitely should be aware of basic business concepts. It starts with crafting a solid business plan that outlines:

  • Realistic and achievable revenue goals based on retainer fees
  • Patient recruitment and marketing strategies
  • Legal compliance
  • Benefits and services you plan to offer

2: Consider a Consultant

Private medicine is a lot different from traditional primary care models, and transitioning or opening a new office will present several challenges. A consulting firm that has helped other doctors make the same transition can identify some of these challenges in advance so you have a plan to avoid them altogether (when possible) or tackle them when they come up. Be sure to consult with the American Academy of Private Physicians for a list of practice conversion consultants working in the industry to begin your interviews.  Each consultant has a little different perspective and can offer different levels of guidance depending on your specific needs.

3: Train Your Team

A top-notch clinical team is critical to your success as a private physician. Not only do you need great doctors and nurses, you also need exceptional customer service staff. When people are paying extra for their medical care, they will expect a higher level of service and amazing people can help attract and retain your patients.

4: Educate Your Patients

Many patients are not aware of the differences between private medicine and traditional primary care offices. Without proper education patients will only see that joining your practice requires a monthly or annual retainer fee, while going to a traditional doctor requires no up-front payments. In that case they are likely to choose the lower-cost option (particularly if they have insurance and pay little to nothing out of pocket for care). Instead you need to present the value and benefits that a private medical practice can offer so they see the return on investment. If you have existing patients, educating them early and often can prevent a mass exodus from your practice when you make the transition.

5: Market Your Business

You might not be a marketing expert, but operating a successful private physician practice requires that you have expert marketing. You must create a brand, which includes the basics like a professional logo and tagline, but also develop a message explaining what sets you apart from other physicians. Don’t skimp in this area or try to wing it—people can identify amateur-looking brands, and will often avoid these businesses.

Once you logo and tagline are established and you have created a basic message, the next critical step is to set up a professional and strategic website. Consider hiring a marketing firm to help with any or all of these steps if you are unsure about where to start or what exactly to do.

6: Network with Other Private Physicians

Converting your practice to a private doctor’s office is a long process that can be daunting and lonely at times. Joining a professional organization, such as the American Academy of Private Physicians, can help you find doctors who have been through the same things you are experiencing right now and offer you networking opportunities and advice to succeed.

Trade association annual conference attendance can not only provide tremendous networking opportunities but valued, educational programming that will help you and your practice with understanding new compliance rules. You will also be introduced to emerging technology in the medical industry and educational tracks highlighting industry professionals speaking on emerging trends and best practices. Topics range from conversions of a practice, direct primary care practices and concierge/private medicine practices.

7: Develop a Sustainable Model

Just because you start out with a successful practice doesn’t mean it will remain successful forever. The reality for all doctors, both private and traditional, is that patients will come and go. They may have a change in their income that prevents them from paying for boutique medical services, or they may just decide that they don’t get enough benefit. Patients move away and pass away, so your clientele is constantly evolving. In order to remain viable in the long-term it’s important that you are continually marketing and promoting your practice to keep a steady stream of patients. It’s a tricky balance, though, because part of private medicine is keeping patient load at a manageable level so you can provide adequate attention to each patient. Finding that balance and sustaining it is critical for the future.

Follow these steps to make sure your transition to private medicine is as smooth and successful as possible.

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Dispelling the Myths About ‘Concierge Medicine’

private-physicianAs the healthcare landscape continues to shift many people have perceptions about certain things that are just not accurate. Concierge medicine is a perfect example of this—a service that was once provided almost exclusively to wealthy clients has changed dramatically in the past 10 years to include more and more options that are affordable for anyone. Despite that fact, there are still a lot of myths and negative connotations associated with concierge medicine, but we’re here to dispel some of the most common ones.

Myth #1: Patients can’t afford private medicine

The Truth: It is true that when you use terms like “concierge medicine” or “boutique medicine” they invoke an image of something elite, something reserved for the wealthy. But the truth is that the average monthly fees to belong to a private medicine practice today are surprisingly affordable at around $130-$150 a month. While there are still some concierge doctors that charge retainer fees as high as several thousand dollars a month, most people could easily afford to be part of a private doctor’s practice, even on a tight budget.

Myth #2: There isn’t much difference between concierge and traditional doctors

The Truth: Patients who pay to belong to a private physician’s practice should expect that they will get a higher level of care. In fact, since doctors are able to significantly reduce patient volumes they can pay more attention to each patient and offer more individualized care. Many private doctors also offer several “perks” in exchange for monthly or annual retainer fees. Some of the common added benefits include:

  • Longer appointment times, spending 30 minutes or more with each patient
  • The ability to schedule an appointment the same day or the next day
  • Comprehensive disease management and wellness initiatives
  • Coordination of services if you ever need to get hospital or specialty care
  • Extensive annual check-up that covers several different areas of physical and mental well-being
  • Access to the physician day or night via email, cell phone, or social media to ask questions and get advice

Myth #3: Concierge doctors are just interested in getting rich

The Truth: Most doctors who decide to transition to private medicine have become burned out or disillusioned with the state of primary healthcare in America today. Doctors that carry patient loads of 2,000-4,000 patients (which is average) can only dedicate 10-15 minutes with each patient and must cycle through several dozen patients every day just to keep up with overhead costs. When they are able to reduce their patient volume to just 10-20 percent of that average by opening a concierge practice, they can reignite the passion that made them want to become doctors in the first place.

In fact, several studies show that concierge physicians earn about the same annual income as their traditional primary care peers, even with an 80 percent reduction in the total number of patients they see. This is often because they can eliminate as much as 40 percent of overhead costs by removing the need to bill insurance companies for basic care, and can supplement the remainder of their lost income with the retainer fees.

Myth #4: Concierge medicine can’t be legal or ethical

The Truth: Private medicine is growing in popularity because it is both a legal and ethical way for doctors to provide care to patients. Private medicine patients elect to pay a fee for the services they receive, and in exchange the doctor can dedicate more time to each patient and provide comprehensive care centered around overall health and wellness. It is important that doctors pay close attention to their finances, ensuring they are not billing insurance companies for services covered under the retainer fees (which would be double-billing, and would be considered illegal). From an ethical perspective, while there is a shortage of primary care doctors, it is not the responsibility of one single physician to meet the needs of everyone. Instead it is important that physicians provide the best possible care to whatever patient level they can adequately treat.

Visit PrivatePhysicians.com To Find a Private Physician Near You.

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The Return of At-Home Doctor’s Visits

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Why, it’s your doctor!concierge-medicine-overall-health

Believe it or not, the at-home doctor’s visit is not only returning, but the industry appears to be growing. In a world where patients spend more time in a waiting room than they do in front of the doctor, the in-home care model is a breath of fresh air. So why is the trend gaining traction? To understand the present, we need to look at the past.

History

Watch any black-and-white movie and you’ll see physicians caring for a patient who is enjoying the comfort or his or her own bed. The Clinics in Geriatric Medicine journal estimates that in the 1930s, house calls accounted for roughly 40 percent of all physician-patient encounters. However, that number dropped to 10 percent by the 1950s and practically vanished entirely during the 1980s.

The journal cites several reasons that house calls started to fade, such as:

  • Improvements in technology: Facilities received new tools for diagnosing and treating illnesses. This got people out of their homes and into an office.
  • Insurance coverage: Private insurance bucked house calls from policies, making the house call too expensive for many.
  • Financial incentives: Physicians could see twice the number of patients in an office setting as they could traveling from home to home.

As Clinics in Geriatric Medicine points out, other countries have sustained home visits because these constraints are not present. For example, in Britain, which has subsidized health care, doctors make up to 10 times more house calls than physicians in the United States do.

However, house calls now are making a comeback in this country, as those limiting factors are slowly disappearing.

Medicare Resuscitates the House Call

Medicare amended its billing procedures in 1998, allowing for physicians to bill for home visits. A study from The National Institutes of Health note that doctors made roughly 478,000 house calls to Medicare beneficiaries in 2000 and more than twice that – 995,294 – in 2006.

The NIH study also found that as the number of in-home care visits rose, the number of doctors providing them declined. In other words, a smaller number of doctors took on a larger number of home visits. The findings indicate that the doctors who made home visits tended to be in solo practices.

Money and Technology

But can Medicare changes take all the credit for the rise in home visits? Of course not. Research has shown that the practice is actually cost-effective. Take, for example, an older man who is homebound due to a disability. He can continue to receive necessary check-ups without the hassle – and sometimes, risky exposure – of going to a hospital or doctor’s office, which can cause costly complications.

The very nature of an in-home visit has changed dramatically since the time it was last popular decades ago. For example, the little black bag a physician would carry into a 1950s perhaps held a few basic tools. Today’s black bag is equipped with a smartphone, portable lab kit, IV medications and even an EKG machine. In other words, physicians can essentially bring the hospital to the patient.

From the Doctor’s Perspective

The increase in house calls illustrates that physicians are seeing the benefit to providing patients with more personalized care. Instead of a patient getting rotated through a practice and seeing whichever doctor is available for a same-day or next-day appointment, house calls enable a one-on-one relationship between doctor and patient, which can reduce common mistakes attributed to medical records getting bounced from office to office.

Additionally, a home visit allows a physician to see the environment in which a patient lives. That kind of insight permits a doctor to provide even more comprehensive care, as he or she may be able to identify unhealthy living situations that should be addressed.

Private medicine, which has been around since the 1990s, includes this kind of personalized care into their practices. With longer, more attentive patient visits in a secure environment, home visits may well be both the past and future of medicine.

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Want Comprehensive Care? Seek a Private Physician

dv2062025Preserving your overall wellbeing entails much more than simply keeping germs out of your body. What you eat, how much you exercise, your stress levels and your living environment all play an important role in your physical health. Private physicians have a keen insight into all these pieces of your life because they work much more closely with you than a traditional practice would. Here are five ways private medicine has an all-inclusive approach to your health.

1. Non-Episodic Care

In general, a fee-for-service physician often only sees patients when something is wrong. While this is good for treating illnesses, it does not do much in the way of preventing disease or maintaining health.

A private physician, on the other hand, tends to have a much a closer relationship with patients. The point of private medicine is to give people an attentive doctor. Many offer annual physicals to discuss any concerns that a patient might have. Additionally, these exams can help a doctor spot any warning signs and catch an illness in its early stages, which can prevent further complications down the road.

2. Coordinating Treatment

A primary care physician simply is not equipped to handle all the medical requirements a patient may have, which is why referrals to specialists are often a necessary part of treatment. In a fee-for-service structure, your doctor will typically give you the number of someone to call and fax over your records.

While this has been the practice for years, it can leave the door open for error. Medical records could get lost or confused in the transition, which can result in devastating mistakes. The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that medical errors related to a patient’s record account for as many as 400,000 deaths every year.

A private physician will take the time to coordinate the visit with a specialist. Many will personally set up appointments or discuss your background with other doctors to ensure that you get the care that you need. Your doctor understands your needs and can ensure you receive the best possible treatment.

3. Longer Patient Visits

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Care reports that physicians in a traditional practice could have upward of 2,000. That results in very quick doctor visits that average about 15 minutes, which is just enough time to hear your symptoms, diagnose the problem and write a prescription.

On average, private doctors may only have a few hundred patients to care for, which means they are able to spend more time with each person. Instead of simply ticking off your symptoms, you are able to discuss other factors that could be contributing to how you feel, such as your diet, sleep and exercise patterns.

4. Home Visits

While not all private physicians will make house calls, many will. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, home visits for Medicare beneficiaries alone more than doubled from 2000 to 2006 and continue to rise.

The benefit here is that a doctor who is in your home gets a chance to see how you live. The quality of your indoor air, the presence of pets and the cleanliness of a home will all contribute to your health. A physician who gets this kind of intimate look into the life of a patient will have a better understanding of the person’s life on a day-to-day basis and make adjustments or suggestions accordingly.

5. Effective Health Management

It is imperative to build a relationship with a healthcare provider, especially when it comes to patients who have chronic illnesses. Seeing the same doctor over and over instead of getting rotated through a practice gives a physician a first-hand account of a patient’s medical history, including how the person responds to certain medications and preferences for different types of treatments.

Patients who are looking for a doctor who caters to the big picture of their wellbeing by incorporating all the small details involved in health should seek the help of a private physician. Fewer patients, longer visits and house calls all result in a more complete kind of medical care.

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Five Tips for Building an Effective Social Media Presence for Your Private Medical Practice

An estimated 25% of the world’s population used social media websites in 2013, with the majority of that social-media-logospercentage being daily users. While the “social” in social media may be misleading to some, make no mistake about it—social media is one of the most powerful business marketing and communication tools available. The following five tips will help any healthcare business build a rewarding online presence:

Keep it Natural, Friendly, and Entertaining

Few things turn social media users off faster than businesses that do little more than post advertisements. Your social media pages should be about developing a community, one that reflects what is special about private medicine, your employees, your services, and your patients. Accomplishing this may involve sharing interesting information, photographs, videos, and other content that reflects personality and engages users. Your home page should always include basic info such as name, location, type of business and contact info in an easy to see yet unassuming manner.

Make Your Presence Communication Friendly

A social media page should never be used as the primary method of patient inquiries, trouble shooting, or other strictly business related communications. However, your social media pages should offer current and potential private medicine patients the ability to ask questions and hold discussions with both employees and current patients in a casual manner. Creating an on page dialogue between your private medical practice and users, highlights the communal, friendly aspect of your practice, as well as provides vital patient feedback.

Your Social Media Pages Need to be Referral Friendly

Social media is increasingly becoming one of the most popular methods for those seeking referrals for goods and services. A social media user is far more likely to follow personal referrals from friends and family when compared to a simple web or phonebook search. Providing interesting and entertaining content will encourage your followers to re-post or share the content, further building trust and referral opportunities

Highlight Special Events and Promotions

Social media is perhaps the most cost-effective way to advertise promotions and sales, provided you don’t overdo it. Your followers will appreciate this information, but posting it too frequently will take away from the all important personality of your online presence. Aim to only share special events and sales that are truly special and likely to attract patients’ attention.

Don’t Abandon Other Advertising and Marketing Practices

While social media has quickly become one of the most powerful tools, an effective marketing and advertising campaign still requires a multi-faceted approach. Print advertising, email campaigns, and other traditional tools remain effective and help further build your business’s social media follower base. Be sure to include the names and addresses of your social media pages on business cards, flyers, and other printed material whenever possible.

Building and maintaining a solid social media presence doesn’t require a lot of time or money, nor does it require any advanced training or skill set. Following the five tips listed above will help build your social media pages to encourage dialogue, spread vital information, and create a community of current and future patients. Best of all—it is fun!

Source:

  1. http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/01/rules-results-from-social-media.html
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