Some docs go it alone with 'micropractices'

Doctor patient

For doctors frustrated by the demands of group medical practices, going off on their own to start a “micropractice” could be the ticket to better job satisfaction.

Despite worries over the impact of the shift in industry payment trends on small and solo practices, the demise of the independent physician has been overstated, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Far from being career suicide, some doctors see the move as an excellent opportunity to remind themselves of why they entered the field, according to an article in Medscape.

The key to rediscovering that sense of purpose lies in shifting the philosophical basis for the practice. “You’re either in a production-driven practice or a relationship-driven practice,” says Pamela L. Wible, M.D., a family physician from Oregon. By focusing on building and maintaining patient relationships rather than on seeing as many patients as possible per day, physicians can improve both their quality of life and patient satisfaction.

The trick lies in making such a model work financially. Many, though not all, micropractices employ a variant of a concierge model, where patients pay a fee for some or all of the services they receive. Regardless of how physicians charge, low overhead is the biggest success factor, according to Robin Dickinson, M.D., a family doctor in Colorado.  The startup costs for her minimalist practice, where she sees a panel of 200-300 patients, ran only $5,000. “If you can buy a house, rent an apartment, or manage your bills at home, you can also rent an office and buy equipment and supplies,” she says.

Even though if it’s possible to start a successful micropractice, doing so may not always be the best fit for every doctor, according to the article. Practicing in certain locations can limit the degree to which a practice can keep its overhead low, for example, and some people simply aren’t cut out for working alone.