If you are a physician that operates a traditional medical practice and you’re thinking about converting it to a private 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.