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Managing a Practice: Preparation for Residents and Students

This article is featured courtesy of NetDoc.com: Physician practice management online.

There's a brave new world out there after medical school. Sure, it's the day-to-day reality of being a doctor. The responsibilities, the excitement, and the fatigue. But if you are considering starting your own practice someday, there are even more surprises in store.

Running a practice means assuming a dual role of physician and businessperson. Nearly half of doctors report spending at least one full day per week managing their business, meaning less time with patients. In addition, medical school may not have prepared them for the realities of the business world, and most cite the need to better develop their business skills.

Perhaps no one can be effectively and completely prepared to run a practice. But students can be prepared with a realistic idea of what is involved.

Preparation

The first step to considering a practice as a viable career move is some careful self-analysis. Are you comfortable with taking on business tasks? Are you at ease with the idea of being solely responsible for a business? If these ideas are frightening, there are alternatives in the form of multi-physician practices and other organizations.

One of the key preparation steps physicians take when opening a practice is gathering a team of professional advisors. Selecting an attorney and an accountant are crucial steps that are made far in advance of opening day. A good attorney and accountant will guide physicians through the murky waters of business set-up, the first years, and through any problems that arise.

Professional advisors can also assist in crucial administrative issues. All new practices need legal structure and licenses (including business, medical and narcotics), which lawyers can help navigate. In addition, physicians opening practices will probably need to apply for financing. An official and compelling business plan might help, as well as cultivating relationships your advisors already have.

Another advisor to add to the mix is an insurance agent. For a new practice, physicians need insurance for medical malpractice, personal liability, property, and workers' compensation.

Planning

With a team of advisors, physicians then sit down to plan and estimate the financial reality of the practice. CPAs will figure expected gross billing versus actual net receipts, and throw in other estimated expenses (overhead). Physicians will also need to develop a fee schedule for all procedures, tests, and other services.

It's important to consider the market for the practice, and calculate an expected level of success. What kind of patients are in the neighborhood? What other competition exists? What extra expenses will be necessary? Determining this helps physicians choose a practice site, and decide to lease or own the building.

Next physicians must create a staffing plan. At a minimum, a receptionist, medical assistant, LPN/RN, and medical biller will be needed. A clear hiring plan, with recruiting ideas and qualifications in mind, will guide physicians through this all-important step.

Another planning must? Attracting patients through marketing. Business owners will need to understand basic marketing concepts and tactics. They will need to come up with effective marketing plans using a careful analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as successful writing and design.

Continued...Medical Practice Management p. 2

Resources

  • Physician Practice Management - Netdoc.com - physician practice management, best practices for small practices.
  • Sermo - A review of the recently launched physician community site, sermo.com.

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