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Friday, October 28, 2016

Considerations For Opening Your Own Practice

Owning one's own practice is the goal of most medical practitioners. They want that sign with their name out front, and the ability to oversee the every detail of their operation, holding it to their own high standards.

It sounds appealing, and it can certainly be very rewarding. But things can go wrong if you don't manage the practice correctly.

If you are getting started on the process of running your own practice, keep these major areas in mind to avoid problems down the road.

Data Handling

The way you handle patient information and the reports, notes, and results you gather about them is critical to your success--and to your ability to stay on the good side of the law.

HIPAA is very specific about how you can and cannot use this information, who can have it, and how it must be handled. The great thing about starting out new is that you will be able to implement HIPAA-compliant systems from square one, as opposed to having to back up and change existing records.

Start with your systems. Go with a system that will meet meaningful use guidelines and use a quality computer system that can handle it and expand later. Get a large server, use top-quality virus protection, get an impermeable firewall, and establish strong passwords.

That last step involves your employees. Hire people who understand medical records, preferably experienced people with a sharp eye for computer technology. They will be able to set things up on a course for effective records management that will take care of your patients and you.

Marketing


You're a physician, not an advertising genius. At least not officially. But you will have to work like one if your practice is going to be successful.

The first thing you need to understand is that a medical practice doesn't advertise or market itself in quite the same way as any other business. Most consumers will not make a "cold call" to a doctor unless they're just new in town and don't know anybody else.

The most common thing to draw a patient to a doctor is a referral. If you're a general practitioner, your referrals will come by way of your other patients. If you're a specialist, that will still be true but you may also receive referrals from other physicians.

For you as a marketing doctor, this means you have to do everything you can to make the experience positive for your patients. Touch up your bedside manner. Make sure the office is clean, comfortable, and spacious. Make sure billing is accurate, fair, and timely. And as far as referrals from your colleagues, stay engaged with the medical community. Get to know other practitioners outside the hospital, since many of them might not interact with you there for many years.

In short, then, work the traditional advertising channels, but simultaneously work to engage with your colleagues and existing patients.

Local Regulations

Let's back up a little bit to the actual establishment of your place of practice. If you're just starting out and want to get patients into the exam rooms as soon as possible, you'll probably want to seek an existing medical building so that you can get up and running quickly.

If that's not the case for you, you may be building or renovating for your practice. Make sure you spend some time with local code enforcement officials to make sure your plan is acceptable. There will be issues about everything from sign types to placement of walls that will have to be addressed, and particularly if you're doing renovation yourself, you may get things built that inspectors will later force you to change.

Your time in medical school, residency, and internship has made you ready for the daily work of caring for patients. But when you introduce all the considerations of running the actual practice, you may feel hopelessly unqualified. Don't let the process overwhelm you. Take a practitioner's approach.

Diagnose each problem, plan a course of action, and track its progress. And just as with patient care, the most important thing is to keep sight of the things that you are less experienced with and making sure that you get expert help when needed.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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