Ten 'Tell-It-Like-It-Is' Secrets to Boost Practice Profits

Sanford J. Brown, MD

Disclosures

August 05, 2011

Introduction

Whether you're employed and dissatisfied working for someone else, already in private practice, or considering taking the plunge right out of school, some key steps will help bring you the practice success that you want to achieve. I've worked for a salary in different practice environments, but nothing gives me as much satisfaction as being my own boss.

Of course, in addition to satisfaction, you want to earn a good living. These steps can help you achieve that.

Get Computerized

Running an office without a computer is like using leeches for phlebotomies. Buy a practice management program that includes scheduling and electronic billing capabilities. You can be up and running with hardware and software for under $3000. Physicians should investigate several products before deciding which one to purchase.

Don't be confused by price. What you pay for medical management software often bears no relationship to its utility. Make sure that the package you purchase comes from a company with a track record for quality, service, and reliability. Don't wait until you're in the new practice before you buy your system; get it now and familiarize yourself with it at your leisure.

Learn How to Do Your Office Manager's Work

Having a computer isn't enough. You have to know how to use it to make appointments, create bills, post payments, and send electronic claims. Unless you personally know how to run your software, you won't be able to show your office manager how you want things done. This is your business, and for it to be successful, you need to be involved with its nuts and bolts. An aloof attitude (eg, "I just want to practice medicine") will leave others running your business for you, often with calamitous results.

Keep Your Hand Off the Doorknob While You're With Patients

Make sure that you give great service. This is what keeps your patients coming back and recommending you to their friends. Although all of us as physicians have been trained in giving good care, we do not always know how to give good service.

Here are the fundamentals: Don't make your patients wait. Apologize if you do. Listen attentively, and keep your hand off the doorknob. Call the next day to see how they're doing (this alone will ensure your practice's success) and report their test results back to them promptly. Finally, leave room for same-day scheduling so that you're readily available to patients when they need you.

Create a Niche

You'll go broke if you wait for sick patients to walk through the door. There aren't enough of them to go around. Consider doing wellness medicine, which widens the scope of potential patients to include everyone.

Develop a subspecialty such as in dermatology, thyroid disorders, diabetes, or geriatrics. Get into occupational health -- pre-employment physicals, drivers' physicals, flight physicals, workers' compensation for minor injuries, drug screening, etc -- and advertise that you offer these services. A river of money may run by lawyers, but it doesn't run by physicians. We have only rivulets. But add them up, and you will have a mighty stream.

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