Solo practices are getting harder to find in the U.S. New doctors, unwilling to put in the money and effort into establishing solo practices choose to go to work for hospitals and medical groups instead. Experienced doctors, having spent many years running their own businesses, are electing to sell those businesses to become employees of the new owners. Where does that leave the solo practice? Can it still thrive in the U.S. healthcare sector?
Absolutely. A solo practice is a small business not completely unlike most other small businesses in this country. Small businesses can and do thrive in the midst of corporate competition. And in healthcare, there is a tremendous need for corporate alternatives right now.
The American Medical Association (AMA) officially “supports physicians in pursuing the practice arrangement that best suits them,” including establishing a solo practice. In their August 23, 2021 newsletter, they offered some helpful tips for thriving as a solo practice owner. This post will discuss just a few of them.
1. Understanding and Maximizing Payment Systems
A big challenge for any new solo practice owner is keeping revenue flowing while the business is growing. And even after a doctor’s patient load is full, payment is an ongoing concern. To thrive, a doctor has to understand and maximize all available payment systems.
Doctors get paid largely through insurance company and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements. Some patients still pay cash. In addition, growing numbers of doctors are choosing to go the concierge route. Rather than accepting medical insurance, they charge an annual fee that covers basic in-office services. It is more or less a subscription model. At any rate, thriving as an independent practitioner requires having a handle on payments.
2. Make Things Better for Patients
One of the advantages of solo practice is autonomy. The AMA recommends that clinicians use that autonomy to make things better for patients. Find ways to improve the patient experience and you give patients a reason to visit the office. Incidentally, that is the whole idea behind concierge medicine: providing a better patient experience. Concierge practitioners tend to spend more time with patients. They tend to build stronger relationships with those patients.
3. Maintain a Positive Office Culture
Next up is maintaining a positive office culture. While the AMA does not expand too much on this point, a positive culture includes taking care of staff members. Clinicians should pay them well and treat them as valuable members of the team. According to healthcare professionals database providers iMedical Data, a good number of healthcare professionals planning to leave their jobs over the next few years say the number one complaint is poor treatment by their employers. Avoid that mistake and you eliminate one of the biggest hassles of being a business owner.
4. Utilize the Right Experts
Ensuring that a solo practice will thrive requires utilizing the right experts. For example, a primary care doctor is not a licensed account. They are not a business administrator or attorney. All the ancillary services required to run a successful practice should be outsourced to the appropriate experts. Otherwise, the doctors are left trying to wear all the hats. That is a recipe for business failure.
Although fewer doctors are choosing to open solo practices these days, the AMA recognizes that doing so is still a viable option. Doctors can not only operate their own practices, but they can also thrive in the solo environment. It just takes a different mindset. Rather than being an employee, the solo practice owner is a small business owner providing a service to customers. Thinking in those terms is the key.