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Staying an Independent Physician is Still Possible

We have explored some of the statistics and reasoning behind why independent physicians seem to be moving away from private practice and towards larger hospital or medical group employment. Overall, it may seem like the current trends indicate the extinction of the independent physician. Is that really the case?

While it may seem an extraordinary feat to pursue private practice, there are many ways that independent physicians can still succeed in the modern business world! For those who are adaptable, ambitious and entrepreneurial, being an independent physician can actually be quite rewarding and liberating. Some studies, like one by Medscape even found that independent practitioners are slightly more satisfied with their career and finances than hospital-employed physicians [1].

Similarly, satisfaction rates with pay are extremely close at around 50% for both parties. Based on this information, it may seem more plausible to pursue independent practice, particularly if you have the right disposition (risk-tolerant and more highly motivated), are willing to do the right research and set yourself up for success.

Managing a medical office

To find that success, it is important that as an independent physician and practice owner you operate as though you are running a small business. You need to manage employees, accounting, budgets, billing and insurance, technology, legal, strategy, plus all of the day-to-day office details. Being at the helm means there is likely more work and more stress (particularly at the beginning), but it also means that you are in control! Unlike traditional hospital employment, you can truly customize your care, refer your patients to trusted specialists, and guide them through the medical process to ensure they receive the highest quality care.

You also get to take charge and make changes; whether that be purchasing a new EHR that works for you, finding additional help and technology, or restructuring your patient payment plans.

We do know that all of that freedom can seem overwhelming! Luckily, there are some basic jumping-off-points to inspire you and get your practice (and patients) thriving in the years to come.

First, recognize the importance of your brand and reputation.

This is how you can get new patients through the door to your practice. The great thing about being an independent physician in an increasingly smaller pool of similar practices is that you have a unique value that you offer to your patients compared to a hospital. Traditionally, an independent physician would market through word of mouth, referrals and community involvement; while these approaches are still valid, make sure to take advantage of the marketing opportunities on the internet.

Did you know…

that 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor, according to a Software Advice survey[2]?

A strong online presence (website, social media, reviews, etc.) can make you visible, influence your community’s perception of you and your practice, and even be the final step to get patients to make an appointment. Plus, if technology isn’t your thing, there is no need to worry because there are many medical practice marketing specialists out there that can help you with your website, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and reputation management.

Second, take some time to reconsider your business model.

The flexibility and freedom in independent practice does not just relate to EHR choice but payment methods and visit structures. Wrestling with insurance companies and ensuring cash flow can be challenging, so use your agile and smaller practice to experiment with new approaches. Many physicians have found that implementing telemedicine, concierge visits, Direct Primary Care, subscription-based plans, and cash-pay have offered additional revenue plus multiple options for patients! You can even look to build alliances with labs and other independent physicians. What works best for you will depend heavily on environmental and situational factors, but remember that you are independent and have the freedom to adjust your businesses direction at any time (unlike your hospital-employed counterparts).

Using technology in unique ways like having outsourced billing assistance and specialized software systems can cut-down on in-office workflow bottlenecks and keep you competitive with the well-oiled operations at a hospital. It also lowers overhead and can be a huge financial benefit! Enablements like check-in kiosks and appointment reminders improve the patient experience and engagement with the practice without taking up the time of a paid, in-office employee. Some medical companies that offer this sort of assistance also work with EHR systems, clinical compliance and marketing. Do some research and find out if they can partner with you in this endeavour to help your practice be a glowing success.

Your ambition is one of your best qualities, but make sure to get adequate help to manage all of the business details by yourself. And most importantly, always remember that your time is your most important and profitable resource. The best use of your time is providing quality care to patients. Trust professionals in practice marketing and business development to help you along your way! You may not be an expert web developer, biller, or clinical compliance manager, but you can outsource that work and have the best practice in your town in no time!

To learn additional tips for success, please download our complete guide or reach out to WRS Health to speak to one of our specialists.

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[1] Medscape Employed vs. Independent Doctors
[2] Software Advice - How Patients Use Online Reviews