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Avoiding Business Mistakes as a New Doctor

Owning your own medical practice can demand that you consider different approaches (and hurdles) that aren’t typically top of mind when you’re acting solely from the perspective of a doctor. Here are few common business mistakes that every new doctor makes — and how to avoid them.
Not choosing the right facility.
Regardless of whether you choose to lease or buy the real estate space that will house your facility, allow at least six to nine months to find the right space — considering more factors than simply square footage, price per square foot, parking and accessibility. As you “shop” facility options, consider how well the facilities and location suit the type of care you and any partners provide, and how appealing they may be to your desired clientele. For example, space may be inexpensive at an area located a bit further away from a popular suburb, but if you’re aiming to win the business of parents and kids who live in it, it’s likely not a “value.” Further, research direct competition that is nearby, as well as future development plans that may impact the area (for better or worse), and how well the space supports your growth potential. (The size of the facility you choose can impact the amount of patients you can schedule and treat in various “scheduling blocks,” too.)
Forgetting the implications of accepting payment and insurance.
You may have years of experience navigating the nuances of private and government-funded health insurance, but working with insurance companies and collecting payment from customers takes on new challenges when you have a private practice. Before you announce your intent to open a new practice, ensure that you are not bound by any non-compete arrangements with a current employer. Allow ample time to be approved as provider for new plans and those you have worked with in the past (which can take anywhere from a month to three months), particularly if you have existing clientele you hope will visit your private practice. If you are unsure about how to navigate insurance as a private practice doctor, consider hiring an expert consultant who can guide you through the process.
Likewise, the methods and types of payment you accept from customers can have impact on how quickly you are paid. Research the many payment processing options that are affordable and accessible to private practices to streamline processes, payment collection and customer service. For example, when you equip your website to accept secure payments, patients can resolve any outstanding amounts due once insurance benefits have been processed by paying online with their credit card (which can also reduce overhead associated with collections).
Not thinking like a marketer.
You may be a skilled doctor, but running a successful private practice requires that you think like a marketer, both to spread the word about your new practice and to ensure you create a positive experience for every patient (which, ideally, leads to them coming back — and telling others about your practice). Start by outlining a “brand mission” of sorts for your practice: Consider the type of experience you want to give patients who visit your office, the different ways you could deliver on that experience (through atmosphere, language used, premiums given and operational processes) and what “controls” may need to be in place to deliver on that promised experience. For example, if you strive to keep patient wait times low, you may need to limit the number of new patients you can accept, and/or invest in technologies that create efficiencies to reduce paperwork and redundancies in processing patient information. When you interview potential staff, share the mission of your practice upfront, and confirm that potential employees are equipped (both professionally, and in their approach to patient care) to giving patients the same experience you want to create.
Owning your own medical practice requires that you view your venture in much the same way as an entrepreneur. When you approach your practice with a keen eye toward basic business functions, you’ll likely find a smoother transition into building a successful new venture, avoiding some common mistakes new doctors make.

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Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm offering merchant account services including physician practice...