When smaller, private practices open, it means more competition and a more widespread distribution of profits throughout the industry. It also means that more healthcare providers are granted more autonomy, becoming free to determine their own workflows. Another major byproduct of increasing smaller practices is that they help expand healthcare access to local areas that might currently be underserved. These are things that can slow down or completely derail your progress leading up to the opening day or take you by surprise when you think your practice is up and running smoothly. Here are a few considerations to your Private Practice to keep in mind:
If you need to perform any construction on your office space, start as early as possible. Otherwise, you might find yourself well past your target opening date without a workable space. Of course, it’s always best to find a turnkey location where you can immediately set up shop, but such space is not always available. So instead, evaluate your site early on, determine what work needs to be done, and then hire the contractors who will do it. With luck and planning, construction will be complete by the time you’re ready to start purchasing equipment.
“There are so many variables if you have to do a fit-out,” Zetter said. “It’s guaranteed: Construction always delays things. Even if you start planning in January that you’ll open in June, be prepared for August [if you have to do construction].”
Changing regulations and payer rules
The healthcare industry is a highly regulated one, with complex rules surrounding virtually everything a provider does. For a small practice, which doesn’t have legions of attorneys on retainer as an extensive hospital system does, it can be challenging to navigate the web of legal requirements and payer rules. However, it is imperative to understand what it takes to comply. In addition, the rules governing the healthcare industry are constantly being changed and updated, so even if you comply today, you’ll have to keep an eye on the future.
“There are particular compliance manners for medical practices, mostly tied to government regulations, like privacy with HIPAA, and certainly being in compliance with the way you bill and treat Medicare and Medicaid patients,” Reiboldt said.
For example, HIPAA requires all healthcare IT products to abide by a particular security standard to safeguard patient data, which has become especially critical as digitization of the healthcare industry has increased, increasing the likelihood of cyberattacks. It’s your job to ensure that every product you select meets HIPAA standards.
With all the necessary preparation for opening day, followed by the hustle and bustle of treating patients once you do open, it can be easy to forget about marketing. Yet, marketing and advertising are fundamental to starting a private medical practice as they are to a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, particularly for general practitioners who won’t be able to rely on a referral network for their patients.
“One thing you would plan for before opening and then continuously do after opening is marketing,” Reiboldt said. “This is a patient-caring, disease-treating business, but with that said, it is a business, and a practice needs to know how to market itself.” After all, how can you be a successful practice without attracting patients?
This guide, however informative, is certainly not exhaustive, and no amount of research can prepare you for everything that might happen as you get started. For that, you need real experience, and there are plenty of professionals who have experience in spades. Zetter, who acknowledged that perhaps it seems self-serving, said hiring a consultant with plenty of experience launching medical practices will save you money in the end and help you avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes.
“The biggest advice I can give is [to] think about who are going to be your advisors,” said Zetter. “Yes, you will spend more money, but if you do it smartly, you will set yourself up for success and spend less in the wrong. You want somebody who wants to be doing business with you 20 years from now when you’re ready to retire and sell your practice.”
Paul Inselman, a doctor and founder of the Creative Coaching medical marketing firm, listed a handful of advisors and professionals that it’s wise to retain in perpetuity:
- Certified public accountant
- Business attorney
- Business coach
- Insurance agent
- Financial planner
- Investment advisor
“Opening a new medical practice will be the most exhilarating and scary thing that you will ever do in your career,” Inselman said. “When we coach our clients on opening up a medical, dental, chiropractic, or any other healthcare practice, the first thing we advise is to assemble your team.”
Meaningful Use standards
The healthcare industry is undergoing digitization, primarily focused on adopting EMR and practice management software. You are now known as Promoting Interoperability; the Meaningful Use standards prescribed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services layout precisely what is expected of a medical practice’s use of an EMR system. You have to ensure that your EMR partner is capable of meeting these demands but that you implement the technology so that your medical business is functioning up to the standards. Otherwise, you could face reimbursement penalties.