Why Some Practices Are Wildly Successful

Shelly Reese


October 22, 2012

In This Article


Some practices struggle. Some bring in a reasonable income for the partners. And some --even in the current economic climate -- soar. They attract new patients and add new providers, and their revenues outpace those of their peers.

What's their secret? External factors can certainly contribute to a practice's success, and clinical excellence is a must-have foundation. But one of the keys to cultivating a wildly successful practice lies in understanding, accepting, and embracing the fact that a medical office, at its core, is a business.

"You don't have to have an MBA to have a wildly successful practice," says Scott Andrews, vice president of client development at athenahealth, a medical billing and software company in Watertown, Massachusetts. "Your practice manager doesn't have to have an MBA. But somebody in your organization has to have that mindset. They have to understand the business issues and be open to adaptation and change."

We asked experts to describe what differentiates wildly successful practices from their peers. Here's their list of must-have qualities:

No Substitute for an Entrepreneurial Spirit

While some physicians focus on the uncertainties of healthcare reform, successful physicians look for opportunities.

"Successful physicians are often impatient," says David Zahaluk, MD, a Dallas, Texas-based family practice physician and author of The Ultimate Practice Building Book (Trafford Publishing, 2007). "They don't want to wait for organic growth, and they're positive."

"Someone on the team has to be an entrepreneur who is willing to take a risk," he says. "They have to have the ability to see how the practice's resources and the competitive landscape match up, so they can see their opportunities."

In 2011, General Surgeons of Western Colorado, based in Grand Junction, did just that when it obtained a Utah license and pursued locum tenens opportunities at hospitals in Moab and Montrose. The experiment was so successful -- revenue increased almost 17% -- that the practice took on additional locum tenens work with the local Veterans Affairs hospital this year.

The locum tenens arrangements provide an important community service and are extremely lucrative for the practice, says practice administrator Carla Blue, who expects a similar revenue increase this year. "It's like a flywheel," she says. "You get it started, and it picks up momentum."