Many physicians choose to start their private practice or join a preexisting practice to gain more control over how they interact with patients and to have a better work and life balance. Private practices also offer more freedom1 in the way doctors get paid. In this environment, it’s much easier to manage the flow of money from patients to staff and ensure sufficient funds are readily available for the tools and resources needed to provide excellent care.
Private practices are essentially small businesses2, and when viewed as such, you’ll be able to find additional resources you may not have known were available. Here are some insights that can help your private practice not only survive but potentially grow and become a source of high-quality care patients seek.
Frontline staff is the first interaction your patients have with your practice. The people making up this team must be well-trained and understand both the intricacies of customer service and the inter-workings of billing and physician scheduling. Running a private practice can often be difficult when it comes to hiring and maintaining a high-caliber staff. In a recent Sermo survey, 51 percent of individuals running a private practice reported they struggle to keep their practice staffed at the necessary level to provide excellent care and services.
One of the easiest ways to tell if you have the optimal number of staff on call is to take your current patient count and compare it to the number of people working within your practice. The data from your staff-to-patient ratio can show you if you have too high of a gap between the two groups. If you do, you’ll see a high staff turnover rate and possibly more patients leaving your practice.
An attractive benefit of running your practice is the ability to hire, define what each role looks like, and how these positions are integrated into your team’s overall goals and objectives. Give your patient administration staff enough time to learn how your practice works. They may be coming to you from larger medical settings in search of a different environment, similar to what many physicians are doing.
If your practice is constantly having to turn new patients away, it might be a sign to hire another physician. This is a good problem to have, as it shows your practice is seen as a trusted source of care and is growing!
A key to keeping your practice running smoothly is to make sure your staff and patients have the best tools available for scheduling appointments. Meet with your staff to find out where they’re seeing the most traffic for scheduling new and current patients alike to determine any trends. This may vary depending on the demographic of the patients in your practice, but it’s important to be prepared for outliers as well.
Make learning about your practice easy for new patients by providing personal and professional information about yourself and any other physicians, what form of insurance you accept, and what payment plans you offer. Potential patients are more likely to choose your practice over one with fewer up-front details on their website. 47 percent of doctors we surveyed said they acquire new patients via their website. As with any other small business, an online presence is imperative in our digital age!
You can use a user-friendly patient portal to allow your patients to manage their appointments from their phones, tablets, or desktops. Provide a dedicated area on your website for new patients to fill out all the necessary paperwork ahead of time.
Tools to provide the best care
Running your private practice gives you the power to make sure you can provide the best resources available to stand out in patient care. Your operating budget might be smaller, but this allows you to allocate funds where they’re needed instead of putting them toward secondary or tertiary necessities. Small business funding options3 are a great source of extra money necessary to foot the bill on upfront costs and improvements as your practice grows!
If your practice is new, office maintenance would be a better choice for where to spend money on administrative office space, consultation rooms, and medical equipment. Investing in a secure telehealth software system might be wise if your practice is more established and a large segment of your patient demographic tends to skip treatment due to busy schedules. No matter how long your private practice has had its doors open, revisit your business plans often to improve and incorporate new tools to stay competitive and relevant.
While providing top care for your patients is undoubtedly the highest priority, getting paid is probably a close second. It may also be why you chose to start your practice in the first place due to large overheads or less control over the salary you took. 56 percent of physicians surveyed by Sermo expressed the need to supplement their practice’s income to grow or prepare for unexpected expenses.
Private practices have the potential to make a substantial amount of money for you and your staff, but there are some important things to lay out from the beginning to make sure your goals are clear.
Determining the type of payment your patients make4 directly impacts the financial future of your practice. Affordable care may distinguish you from other providers in your area, but with this comes more decisions regarding payment plans, accepted insurance providers, billing software, and detailed policies that clarify what the patient is responsible for.
Small businesses set a fiscal goal each year in their business plan. Set up regular meetings with your practice manager to review past revenue and current year-to-date data to determine where your business has grown or where it might need help in the days ahead.
Often, costs for medical supplies and fair staff wages can eat into revenue you were counting on for other necessary expenses in your business plan, so finding additional sources of income becomes important, if not necessary!
Doctors aren’t just looking out for the financial well-being of their practices – 52 percent of private physicians are looking for ways to supplement their salary as well. These other sources of income often require a larger patient load, additional administrative tasks, or even taking on side hustles outside your medical area of expertise.
Many alternative income options can take up valuable time and become exhausting if you don’t have the bandwidth. Taking on large amounts of extra work can go against the very reason you became a private practitioner in the first place.
Participating in paid physician surveys might be one of the best ways to earn personal income on the side, add to cash to have on hand for your practice, or both! Depending on your area of expertise within the medical field or the length of each survey you participate in, your earnings can supplement or even transform your yearly income. Contributing to quantitative or qualitative research helps provide valuable information to researchers and amplify your presence in something that extends far beyond your practice’s walls.
Keep your private practice running effectively for longer by combining multiple tools and resources at your disposal. The right tools won’t solve all of the problems or prevent every obstacle you face, but having a varied approach in your business practice can ensure that your patients are taken care of and that your staff and practice are positioned to succeed.