By Michael Tetreault, Editor in Chief
AUGUST 2016 – We cannot begin to tell you how many emails, inquiries and phone calls we receive on a monthly basis from physicians [and their spouses mind you] who are considering the transition from: Hospital to Private [Membership] Practice; Group Practice to Private [Membership Medicine] Practice; Medical Residency to Private [Membership] Practice; or who have already started down the path towards independence but have run into road blocks that seem insurmountable.
These are some helpful tips many physicians have shared with us over time that we would like to tell you about today. These tips have been brought to us by physicians, their staff, current patients and even by some former patients who have been down this path before you (The DocPreneur Institute). After reading these helpful pieces of advice and more than likely, working in the another practice for the majority of your career … any new Membership Medicine owner/operator or physician who decides to go on their own may quickly find this business model is a shock.
Operating and Owning a Membership Medicine Practice Can Be Lonely.
The first thing you should know when making the leap into Membership Medicine [regardless of its form] is this can really be a lonely existence. “If you build it they will come …” is a great movie line, but it is a lousy, terrible and awful growth strategy. [But I love that movie too!]
Dependent on your location choice, as a Membership Medicine owner/operator you will see people walking past your door, strolling up and reading your sign, peering into your windows (or past it) all day long. Today, there is more to it. [And no, purchasing a Pokemon Go character will not help.]
Because your Membership Medicine Practice is for all intensive purposes, a startup, you may have no formal HR division, legal department, marketing division, accounting department or an administrative assistant. It is just you.
Whoah! Wait, what? Yes, you are now overseeing all of these tasks. And when you are finally treating and visiting with your patients, none of these business tasks will get done because you are not the one there to do it.
Hire Knowing Your Weakness. Let Someone Go Who Doesn’t Smile and Understand That Finding Talent Is Never Easy.
Most Concierge Medicine Practices operate a practice with between 3-9 employees. Direct Primary Care Clinics average between 1 to 2.5 employees, including the doctor. If you plan to start your practice with particular staff, or you have grown gradually enough to now bring more people on board, you’ll run into this hiring, firing and acquiring dilemma. While exciting, it can also be nerve wracking. As passionate as you are about your new venture, the person you try to hire or you have to fire may not be.
Did you know that the number one reason patients leave a Concierge Medicine practice is due to rude staff? ~Source: Concierge Medicine Today, 2016
It is common in some Membership Medicine practices for your best candidates to love your mission and your personal vision … but rarely do these candidates want to join an organization whereby they accept less pay, fewer benefits and less job security. Let those potential new employees know that by working for you and alongside you they will have a chance at more responsibility and the opportunity to learn a lot of new skills they did not and cannot gain elsewhere. Oftentimes, these are common threads and themes which are accentuated in the first few years of a startup, particularly in the lower priced, younger business model variant of Direct Primary Care, which is finding its stability in a saturated healthcare marketplace.
You Are Always Marketing … Yourself … and Your Practice.
This can be uncomfortable, awkward at times and unpleasant. But if you are doing it right, it won’t feel like work. You will need to become a Public Relations guru. Start reading books about Public Relations, vision casting and marketing. Don’t always read books written by other colleagues you know, like and trust. Go outside of your comfort zone and find your vision and to tools to help you make your mark. Find your message. Promote and talk about your practice as well as your spouse. Share your vision with potential patients, one-time customers, vending visitors and your employees. By doing this, they will see the positives of joining your practice.
It is Personal.
The final thought we’d like to share with you is life will be different for you outside of work. You will have days you feel like the grass is indeed greener on the other side. While many Membership Medicine Physicians start up alone, almost all of them are passionate about their delivery of healthcare vision and mission to do no harm [financially also]. Because of this, a new Membership Medicine Physician Owner/Operator must consider the costs to his/her own personal life.
According to a Five Year running/LIVE poll from The Concierge Medicine Research Collective (the research arm of the trade publication Concierge Medicine Today), Physician Satisfaction With Their Career Choice 10-Years In is Nearly 100 %.
In Membership Medicine, there is no such thing as a 9-to-5 schedule. And no, I’m not talking about the 24/7 myth of Concierge Medicine that assumes your patients are consistently calling after hours and late a night. To learn more about that particular thought, visit www.AskTheCollective.org.
Convincing People to Buy Into Your Practice and Vision Will Be Difficult.
When someone makes the choice NOT to sign-up and join the practice, you will at first, take it personally. You should. It is personal. You have put your money, time, sweat equity and sacrificed right and left to make your vision a reality. You are trying to help the people in your local community after all and when they reject you and say ‘No, not right now …’, it can hurt. It hurts financially and it hurts emotionally. It should.
About three years ago, our sister publication released a checklist of 20 questions which has now turned into 50 questions. These questions were submitted by both patients and Concierge Medicine physicians and Direct Primary Care doctors over time. Each time a prospective patients says ‘No’ that is a learning opportunity. When you keep this in mind and keep your chin up, you will grow and eventually, the message will resonate with your community. In time, the word will get out and you will gain additional market recognition for your practice. It will require a lot of patience, persistence and planning.
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