6 business concepts essential for any type of practice

For the entire decade I've been writing about medical practices, it's been the $64,000 question: What will become of the private practice?

In 2010, we wrote about private practices going the way of the house call. But even house calls were far from extinct then, and CMS' Independence at Home project continues to breathe new life into them now.

A smattering of articles published just over the past several days offers no clear conclusion. On one hand,  Scott Gottlieb, M.D., of the American Enterprise Institute, predicts that most independently owned medical practices will close within the next five years. Gottlieb himself does shiftwork at a hospital, according to the post from One News Now.

On the other hand, North Carolina consultant and practice administrator Mary Pat Whaley reports that she's seeing an insurgence of physicians returning from hospital-employment arrangements to open up new private practices. Although many of these offices operate under newer models, such as concierge or direct-pay, she credits innovations, such as free EMR systems and social media marketing,as playing significant roles in reducing the financial burden on independent physicians.

Meanwhile, an article from Medscape Today highlights several of the risks--including reduced income--that physicians may face when becoming hospital employees.

The only thing that seems certain, then--whether you "seek higher ground" with employment, as Whaley puts it, become part of something larger than yourself in the form of an ACO, IPA, PHO or yet-to-be determined XYZ, or strike out on your own--is risk.

No matter what course you decide to steer your practice and/or career, every decision you make will have a lasting effect. And although the options are diverse, several common themes apply when working to make any medical practice succeed.

We strive to cover all of these hot topics at FiercePracticeManagement, with an understanding that the core concepts apply across practice types, but become more and less relevant in certain settings as trends evolve.

Nonetheless, whether you're looking to make a drastic change or maintain a 'traditional' practice, most experts agree that the status quo will no longer do.

Regardless of your long-term plans, the time is now to up your game in the following areas:

  • Hiring, retention and employee/physician engagement--We've written several articles on the subject, and yesterday I got the opportunity to moderate a Fierce Webinar: Workforce Recruitment & Retention Strategies, which will be available free on-demand today.
  • Strategic planning--What are you doing to get ready for health reform and your own local market changes? Successful practices look ahead and discuss issues proactively rather than reactively.
  • Patient satisfaction and customer service--The stakes are too high for practices to continue to lose patients due to bad scheduling practices or rude staff behavior. If you think these factors don't play into your bottom line, you may soon find the crowd in your waiting room die down considerably.
  • Technology planning and implementation--More docs are adopting electronic health records, but many are left frustrated with their decisions. Our sister newsletters, FierceEMR and FierceHealthIT, offer valuable insights you need to manage this vital element of your practice.
  • Patient engagement--As your pay is increasingly going to be based on outcomes, it's paramount that patients get on board with managing their own health. You have limited time to make this happen during office visits. What are you doing to connect?
  • Internal and external communication--Topics like physician empathy, employee management and patient engagement are all different sides of the same coin (for lack of a 3+ sided analogy). It all comes down to communication--how messages are delivered to whom and how clearly.

Although the context in which we discuss them may vary, these are the concepts that I believe will make a true difference in the future health of your practice, regardless of its structural makeup. Do you agree? What elements do you see as most important? What would you add? - Deb @PracticeMgt)

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