10 Things Doctors Can Do in an Independent Practice
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
~ Dr. Seuss
It may seem rather funny to quote a children’s author – a “doctor” no less – when talking about the benefits of being a real-world doctor in independent practice. But don’t those words just about summarize the very reasons you decided to leave the hospital environment and start out on your own? That feeling of being in charge, of charting your own destiny, is very powerful.
Now, as the industry faces some very challenging times, that certainty of pursuing your own destiny is one that can serve as a guiding force when deciding how to mold your private practice to face the challenges ahead. As we appear to be coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians and providers will have to take strong actions to transition from what was a crisis mode to one of stability and growth. Practice leaders will need to find ways to stabilize their patient base, provide care in newer and more effective ways, and assure a positive cash flow as the practice lays the foundation for thriving in the future.
As there may well be challenging and defining moments in the months and years ahead, perhaps now is the time to take a breath and remember all the things doctors can do in an independent practice they can’t do in a hospital:
1. The Practice Reflects Your Vision of What Medicine Should Be
Most young doctors start out with very lofty goals of serving patients and saving lives. Over the years, the reality of medicine as a business begins to chip away at these dreams. In a hospital the focus tends to be more on time and money, and how to most efficiently solve the medical situation the patient is experiencing. There is no time to talk, build relationships, or see how everything turns out once the patient leaves the hospital. The return to independent practice means you can once again focus on patient-centered care, but just with a more realistic world view. Although you know you need to make decisions that are cost-efficient, you can also make choices that allow you to focus on patients more than business. If you install the right support team and support systems, your business can run more effectively, while you spend your time getting back to what you want the practice of medicine to be.
2. You Have the Opportunity to Participate in the New Wave of Healthcare
The pandemic was a sort of “trial by fire” for healthcare in terms of learning how to provide care while still maintaining the personal touch. Some false steps were taken, and the learning curve was steep. But one lesson that came out of all that was that virtual health and telemedicine are here to stay. Build on the telehealth solutions you found to increase the ability of your practice to remotely deliver quality, in-home patient care that is comparable to an in-office visit. You and your medical staff can quickly and easily initiate telehealth video and secure text conversations, and maintain logs of those chats and videos for billing and audit purposes.
3.You are in Charge of Your Own Scheduling
In the hospital, the hours of your day are dictated by somebody else. You are allotted certain times for specific activities, and have limited ability to really spend time with patients. In independent practice, you decide when, where and how you want to work. If you are a night owl, you might decide to schedule patients for in-person appointments during the afternoon, and then schedule remote visits from your home office at night. You can include time for personal health and family activities, knowing that your office continues to function. One way to bring a better work-life balance to your practice is the use of a Virtual Preventative Care Assistant. Amazing Charts now offers the capability to include external remote care services in your patient care kit by adding remote staff, or contracting out existing staff, to reduce labor costs while maintaining patient continuity. This takes a huge administrative burden off of the medical professional.
4. You Get to Build a Team that Reflects Your Patient Care Philosophy
In the hospital, you have no control over those you have to work with to accomplish patient care. Views can vary widely as to work habits, communication and medical theories. It can be unwieldy and frustrating trying to advocate for what you think is in the patient’s best interest. There is none of this uncertainty in the private practice arena. You are the focus of the organization, and everything in it reflects your patient care philosophy. Topics you can discuss in team meetings include:
- The nuts and bolts of practice management.
- Brainstorming ways to optimize common clinical situations.
- Streamlining the pre- and post-appointment processes.
- Maximizing use of EHR, telehealth, and patient portal capabilities.
- Working with chronic care patient population.
- Improving patient flow within the practice.
- Optimizing remote care opportunities.
5. Lack of Red Tape Leads to Practice Innovation
The independent practice is uniquely suited to generating ideas that can make a difference for your patient population. You have hands-on knowledge of the problems that directly impact your patients, and can innovate ways to solve them. To achieve this, you have the ability to specifically allocate time for innovation discussions within your practice. Although it is good to focus on the process, you also want to look at patient-centered actions. There might be one simple change in billing or appointment setting that could make all the world of difference to your patients. Include them in the process, and devise solutions from their point of view. You can also look for innovation opportunities with other independent practices in your area which share your treatment philosophy. Each practice may bring specific insights to the table that will make you stronger together.
6. You Get to Work with the Latest in Technology
Some hospitals just do not want to spend the money needed to invest in high-quality technology. Physicians and staff grumble about having to deal with outdated hardware and inefficient software. In your independent practice, you choose what you want to use and when to upgrade. You can work with smartphones, have tablets that can be carried from room to room, set up a separate area for private telehealth sessions, and install printers that make it easy to provide information right at the time of patient interaction. You can also choose which Electronic Health Record (EHR) you want to use, what information you want to chart, and how you want to make the EHR work for you. Components of the latest comprehensive EHR systems include easy charting capabilities and templates to maximize provider time, e-Prescribing, better scheduling capabilities, and a patient portal for enhanced communication purposes.
7. You Can Provide Patient Education on Topics that are Important to You
Easy video production capabilities and social media publishing options make it possible for you to provide quick and factual information for your patient base. If you find that diabetic patients do not understand the need for regular glucose monitoring, you can produce a two-to-three minute video covering the reasons why this care is essential. Post it on your website, run it in your waiting room instead of home improvement or cooking shows, start a YouTube channel, or upload it to your social media pages. When you think a patient needs this information, you can send a link so it can be watched at their convenience, or shared with family members involved in their care.
8. You Can Interact with Patients in Different Ways
In the hospital there is usually just one way to interact with patients – you go to a room and see them for a few minutes, probably as the result of some physical complaint or as a follow-up to care provided. There is no time to really chat, and ask about surrounding circumstances that might contribute to the condition. An independent practice allows for a whole different range of patient interactions. You can meet in the traditional way, in-person, or set up an easy telehealth situation. You can monitor the patient through remote devices and use a virtual assistant to provide follow-up directions. You can communicate through a patient portal, email, or secure text messages to provide information or answer specific questions. Supplemented with the in-person and virtual care, these little “touch points” can make a big difference in the way you choose to deliver care, and the way patients feel about receiving care from you.
9. You Have More Control Over Your Financial Future
Although the pay might appear to be good in a hospital, there is a price to pay for it in terms of the freedom you give up. You don’t control what you charge, what treatment options you can offer, or how you will be compensated. At the end of your career, you only have memories of quick interactions with thousands of patients and no physical asset to show for it. In your own practice, you can find a Medical Billing Service that handles the hassle of billing for you, so you can focus on the important issues of patient care. Your practice could experience an increase in collections, a higher rate of claims paid on first submission, and a quicker time to payment with your payers and patients. Patients may even be more satisfied when they see transparency in your billing, and know that you are working to eliminate reimbursement struggles. This all leads to an improved revenue flow, the ability to compensate your team accordingly, and regular contributions to your retirement plan.
10. You get to be a “real” doctor again!
Perhaps most importantly, you get to be a doctor again. You don’t have to be an administrator, an employee, a negotiator or a cog in the wheel of some giant faceless corporation. Being in private practice means you are the one in charge, and you have the opportunity to pursue, or return to, that dream you had of becoming a doctor who makes a difference. You don’t have to make these decisions and face these challenges on your own. There are established professionals in the field who are dedicated to helping you create a successful independent practice, with solutions and innovations that include Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Population Health and Remote Care. Add some of your initiative and creativity for a perfect combination of care, and you will see that you made the right choice in deciding to start an independent medical practice.
As Dr. Seuss says, always remember that YOU are the one who will decide where you will go – whether it is in your personal life or in your medical life. Being in private practice is both challenging and rewarding, but there are positive choices you can make every day that will help mold your real practice into the one of your dreams. To make your medical office more efficient and responsive, work with a reputable vendor dedicated to helping independent practices survive and thrive by providing easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care that make healthcare more accessible, and more effective.
Healthcare Technology Solutions Designed By and For Independent Practices
Amazing Charts was founded in 2001 by a practicing family physician to help medical practices thrive. We have grown consistently since then by creating easy-to-use solutions for delivering patient care. Today, we offer a variety of additional capabilities designed to help independent practices succeed, including Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Services, Population Health and Remote Care. Call 866-382-5932 to learn about our products, schedule a practice consultation, and learn more about telehealth pandemic lessons that can help your independent practice grow.