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24 Jan 2018

23 Tips for Starting and Running a Private Practice

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Original story by: Nathan Wei, MD – June 06, 2017 –

Reposted by Physician Licensing Service



During my 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency, and 2 years of fellowship, not once did I receive any type of exposure to how to run a business.



I suppose it didn’t matter to those who were going to stay in academic medicine. However, for those of us who elected to go into private practice, it was an incomplete education.



In my 30-plus years of private practice, I’ve had ups and downs. I have had victories as well as ignominious defeats. So for those of us in the trenches, and on the basis of my experiences, I’d like to provide a few pointers on how to start—and run—a successful practice:



  1. Formulate a business plan. This should be heavily weighted on the numbers—meaning the economics of what it takes to operate a private practice.



  1. Create a USP, or “unique selling proposition.” This is a brief statement of why someone should see you as opposed to somebody else. You should not use such words as “quality” and “service.” I have yet to see somebody say, “We offer mediocre quality and poor service.” Here are some good examples from the past. When Domino’s first started, their USP was “fresh, hot, pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less or your money back. ” Federal Express’s USP when they first started out was, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there before 10 AM.” A USP is different from a tagline. Taglines often read as stupid; a good USP does not.



  1. Your entire practice needs to be run on systems, and each person in your office should be aware of how these systems work. This will prevent the “Sally knows how to do it, but nobody else does” syndrome.



  1. Be unique yourself, and be unique in how the public see you. People aren’t going to knock down your door just because you’re “he of good doctors.” People such as Dr Phil and Dr Oz may take this a bit too far, but assuming you’re competent at what you do, a public image can’t hurt.



  1. Early on, expect to do grunt work. This means giving talks, meeting and greeting, and doing other things to help make sure people know who you are.



  1. Recurring newsletters and correspondence can be critical. The newsletters should contain news of interest to you and prospective patients. This does not mean the newsletter should be all about what you do. That’s boring. The newsletters should feature a patient and what makes them interesting (with their permission, of course). Perhaps they have an unusual hobby, etc. Maybe include recipes, jokes, or cartoons—anything to increase personal engagement.



  1. Financially speaking, don’t be afraid of going negative. By that, I mean you may need to forgo your initial consultation fee; however, you can make this up on the back end. This will involve your looking at the math.
  2. Make sure your cash flow is gaining. You’ll have to know how to analyze a profit and loss statement, as well as a balance sheet.



  1. Hire wisely. Make sure you have a system in place. Remember, when interviewing a perspective person, it is important to go over the traits that are important for your practice. Also, remember that people will behave the way they behave. In other words, a good question to ask is, “When X happened to you, what did you do about it?” You can predict future behavior by learning about past behavior.



  1. Hire slow, fire fast. This goes not only for employees, but also for patients. Doctors tend to hold onto both employees and patients for much too long. Life is too short to go through that stress.


Technology, Public Relations, and More

  1. Use technology to help make you more efficient. However, do not use technology for technology’s sake. The human touch will always supersede technology when it comes to taking care of patients.



  1. Learn empathy and persuasion strategies. Some may consider these to be manipulative. I certainly do not. You need to gain people’s trust, but not abuse it.



  1. Work very hard on building your reputation, and maintaining it. It only takes a moment for someone to destroy your reputation. This is unfortunate, because your reputation is the most important thing you have when it comes to a successful practice.



  1. Remember this: You are a marketer of what you do; you are not what you do. In other words, it is important to market yourself as the physician of choice. A prospective patient has a lot of different choices. As soon as you understand this important concept, the quicker things will begin to happen. People will seek you out for who you are more than for what you are.



  1. Learn public relations. Here are a few good ways to get good publicity: Do not believe in the old adage that any publicity is good publicity. Bad publicity will sink you very quickly.



  1. Write a book. When you write a book, you can become perceived as an authority—as an expert. It is not difficult to write a book. I have written a number of books over the years, and with all of the self-publishing options nowadays, you do not need Madison Avenue gurus to help you.



  1. Guard your wallet. There will be plenty of people after your bank account. Do not let them have access to it.



  1. Make sure you have a website that contains appealing information as well as an offer. That offer should be a lead-generation offer for more information that will allow you to build your patient database.



  1. Learn how to do video. This way, when people search Google or YouTube, they may find you.



  1. Continue to learn. Learn new techniques that will help your patients. Learn how to do procedures. The fact of the matter is that procedures still pay more than cognitive services. To this end, make yourself unique.



  1. If you must run an ad, that ad must justify its cost. Always have a clearly defined offer.



  1. Reactivate old clients. People’s lives are busy. Believe it or not, you are not at the top of their mind. It helps to remind former patients of who you are. The newsletter helps, but occasionally you may have to reactivate patients who have not returned. This reactivation campaign should be systematized.



  1. Finally, listen to the experts; don’t believe someone who has never run a business. People always have plenty of advice, even if they don’t have skin in the game.


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