Post-Residency Plans: How to Start Your Private Practice

Post-Residency Plans: How to Start Your Private Practice

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The medical field is a vast one and there’s so much freedom of career options waiting for you to explore. Ultimately, starting out in medical practice is one of the most rewarding events in your professional career. However, many physicians struggle internally after residency training. While the possible options are borderline limitless, major decisions that shape your career are always daunting.

So whether you’ve decided to set aside your fellowship for the meantime or decided that being a fellow isn’t for you, delving into private practice is one of the most common things that you can do after your residency. While many physicians decide to continue pursuing employed positions in hospitals and other healthcare systems, there are the certain allure of private practice that is just irresistible and worth considering.

But, pursuing private practice has its hurdles that one should overcome to be successful in the field. It’s important to understand that it doesn’t happen overnight, and physicians take up months to years of planning prior. Interested in starting a private practice? Here are some helpful tips and reminders for you:

1. Start Making Plans Early

The general rule is the earlier you start with your planning process, the smoother your transition will be.

Don’t wait until you’ve finished your residency before you start thinking about what your next step is going to be. Most physicians who started their own private practice start their planning process at least a year before their residency ends.

That said, it’s always best to make your plans as realistic as possible. If you have no background knowledge on running a clinic or even starting one, find an experienced physician that owns a practice and get as much advice and knowledge from them.

It’s always a good idea to look into practice partnerships because it’s going to be much more feasible and attainable when it comes to carrying burdens of private practice like financing and capital. There are other types of medical practice that you can look through like solo practice, hospital-owned, academic health center, and federally qualified health center.

2. Learn the Language of Medicine Business

As a potential owner of private practice, you have to take on the responsibility of handling the business. After all, medicine is a business and when you’re running a private practice, you have to treat it like it is.

It’s not enough that you’re a board-certified physician who completed training. While it’s not necessary to enroll yourself in a business school, you should at least know the ins and outs of establishing and keeping business. Start asking around your colleagues and other experienced physicians on the day-to-day basis of the job. More so, there are a lot of resources online that could help you starting from free online business courses down to quick YouTube videos.

Here are some of the things that you should be familiar with and integrate into your plan for building a private practice from ground up:

  • Costs of establishing a private practice (i.e. tangible assets)
  • Billing and finances
  • Insurance providers
  • Clinical employees and staff
  • Advisory team (i.e. legal, IT, accounting)
  • Contracts for employment and partnership

3. Be Involved in the Business Process

You’ll most likely start your private practice plans while you’re still in the middle of your residency which is why you must find a time to get involved in the business process. It’s hard to maintain and find a schedule for it but in order for your private practice to be a success, you need to be involved in almost every important aspect of your business.

This is where your networking skills will also come to play. It’s important to build lasting professional relationships with physicians and other healthcare providers because they’re the ones who will guide you and may provide you with references in the future. May it be from starting a partnership with them for your private practice or joining their existing ones.

4. Build Yourself a Proper Administrative Staff

One of the biggest mistakes that private practitioners do in their early practice is to not build their own administrative managers and staff to save capital. But having professionals handle the administrative aspects of your practice will save you another valuable resource which is time.

If not, you’ll most likely find yourself buried in tasks of filing taxes, handling billing and finances, insurance inquiries, staff behaviors, office management, and more. The little time you’ll have left won’t be enough for you to actually see your patients and provide medical care.

Let your office manager handle the administrative side of your practice but continue to be involved and have a significant presence in these areas so you’ll prevent and protect your practice from any mismanagement scenarios.

5. Establish A Solid Foundation

A huge part of owning a private practice is planning and ensuring that you’ve established a solid foundation that will last a lifetime. Things are expected to be a bit bumpy on your first year of private practice but it’s incredibly important that you’ll emerge from those trials with a fresh perspective.

In order to build a proper foundation for your clinic, developing sound policies and operational procedures is important. It’s a critical success factor because it doesn’t matter how much business your clients bring to your clinic, if your internal staff doesn’t reflect the state of it, then it’s very likely that your practice will implode on itself.

Use your administrative team to help you with policy and procedure making. Think of it as building your own form of bureaucracy within your practice — efficient but humane and sound.

One thing that you should be particularly careful of is mixing administrative issues with personal politics. There’s nothing worse than physicians getting in the middle of staff quarrels because they feel obligated to do so. Nothing will be resolved that way and it will only encourage divisiveness on who's side is who. So make sure that you keep things professional and in order.