By: Daniel T. Hall IV, DPM

With the ever-mounting changes in healthcare and how physicians practice, I wanted to share my experience as a young owner of a private practice. While this may seem like a distant goal, you may be contemplating this type of practice structure. In today’s day to day work environment, it is imperative to know the obstacles you may face. The number of today’s solo practitioners are dwindling in favor of hospital-based employment, multi-specialty groups and/or larger podiatry groups. This could be due to the vast amount of responsibility put upon the doctor. Choosing your electronic medical record subscription, obtaining insurance prior authorizations before office and hospital procedures, navigating treatments around high patient deductibles, and increased in-office overhead expenses could all become daunting tasks. It is no wonder we are seeing reports of physician burn-out at an all-time high. So how does one successfully manage all of these variables and still provide the highest quality of medical care to our patients as a solo practitioner? The answer is simple. Evolve.

Let me explain a bit further. As my father used to tell me, “You can’t know where you are going, until you know where you have been.” As with any practitioner who is seeking advice on how to successfully own a private practice, I always begin with a few questions.

1. How are you generating new patient referrals? Furthermore, how are you keeping your current referring physicians?

There has never been a more competitive time to practice medicine, most notably as a specialist such as podiatry. And many other fields, namely family medicine and internal medicine are feeling a similar burden. The number of hospital-based physician employees and hospital-owned practices are at an all-time high. As a result, some of our best referral sources eventually may no longer be sending us patients if a podiatrist is employed within the same healthcare system. Nurturing referral sources is an important aspect of private practice.

2. Do you have a strong online web presence with positive physician reviews?

Let me give you an example. You are traveling to New Orleans for a conference and a friend recommends a great restaurant in the French Quarter. How many of us are going to search that restaurant on our phones or tablet before making a reservation? Nearly all of us. What if the restaurant had several bad reviews? Would we still go? Some of us probably would not despite our friend’s glowing recommendation. And today’s healthcare climate is no different. In fact, according to Practice Builders, nearly 80% of patients will change their mind about a medical practice after reading a bad review. Patients today are having to pay more money out of pocket for their medical treatment as deductibles rise. It is understandable for patients to be more selective with their physicians moving forward.

3. Do you have active social media engagement (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) that is highlighting the strengths of your practice?

The internet has changed the way we all experience healthcare both as physicians and patients. We must evolve and adapt to keep pace with the current digital world. Without a strong online web presence, your practice is going to suffer the consequences. Being active in social media will strengthen the presence of your practice.

4. What criteria are you using to hire your staff, and how are they trained?

“Behind every great physician, there is a great staff.” How is your office staff greeting patients? How are they handling uncomfortable patient situations? Are they courteous and empathetic? Is your software “staff-friendly” regarding scheduling appointments and handling balances?

These are all important questions that every solo practitioner and their staff should be able to answer. Attending podiatry conferences and utilizing the multitude of online resources available will help one stay abreast to the changes that directly affect the practicing podiatrist. The American Board of Podiatric Medicine also serves as a excellent resource and offers access to a vast network of board certified podiatrists that are dedicated to uplifting our profession and offering guidance for private practitioners.