Starting your own practice is a big step in your medical career. It’s an extremely difficult path to take, but it can be an extremely rewarding experience. After several years of working in a hospital or private group, you may be entertaining the idea of starting your own practice. While many doctors have successfully gone solo, it’s not an easy path to take. From managing small business finances, ensuring consistent compliance, and efficient operations, there are several steps to start a private medical practice. Before pushing through, you have to know exactly what you’re getting into and ask yourself some hard questions.
Is it worth the financial investment? Will I be prepared to deal with the administrative aspects of the business like medical billing and payment transactions? Am I at a stage in my life where family and other priorities need more of my time? After contemplating these questions, you need to go through the following key steps to start your own practice.
Verifying Credentials, Securing Licensing
Before you can receive payments via private or public insurance, you must first go through insurance credentialing. The entire process will take about 2-4 months. If there are some issues that insurers need to sort out (e.g. education, residency, professional experience, special training, etc.) it may take longer.
- Private Insurance
- Depending on your medical specialty and which state you’ll sign up to, ask your network for ideas on which private insurance providers to work with, whether it’s Blue Cross, Aetna, UnitedHealth or other companies.
- Public Insurance
- Additionally, you can choose between registering for Medicaid or Medicare — or both. Consider if you’ll be mainly serving low-income communities or a neighborhood where there is a significant population of elderly people.
In some states like New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Colorado, malpractice insurance is required. Do your research and find out if the state where you plan to set-up your private practice requires it. Each state has a medical group that provides more information on state requirements. However, even if it won’t be required, seriously consider getting some form of professional liability insurance. Anything can happen. For instance, a disgruntled patient could sue after an operation and you might find yourself unprepared to deal with such inconvenient situations.
Aside from insurance credentialing, you also need to abide by certain federal and state regulations. Some items you need to include in this checklist are:
- National provider identifier (used by private and public insurers to track health service providers)
- Drug Enforcement Agency number (identifying practitioners who are authorized to issue medication prescriptions)
- State license (issued by a state’s medical board)
- Special medical and business licenses (for x-rays, in-office laboratories or any other special medical tool or supply)
Creating A Professional Brand
In today’s digital age, it’s no longer enough to have the right credentials. You also have to get the word out there to your potential clients. It’s crucial to know how to market and brand yourself through a number of platforms. Nowadays, it’s normal for people to look up doctors and other medical professionals on the internet before booking an appointment.
While word-of-mouth is still an effective strategy, relying entirely on referrals is a slow way to see your practice flourish. Since you’ll be starting your own practice, you need to start thinking about strategies that leverage technology and the internet. There are a number of options at your disposal. For instance, you can create a website so that patients know where to find you and what to expect from your services. You’d most likely need the support of professional website developers. Down the line, to attract more people to your practice, you can regularly publish blogs or other posts that provide helpful information on a variety of health issues. Alternatively, if a website is too big too soon, it’s perfectly fine to start with social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, where most of your potential clients are already signed up to.
Like any enterprise, you need capital and sources of funding available for companies. The main question that needs to be addressed is essentially, how much money do you need to start a private practice? First, identify your initial costs (e.g. rent, construction, legal fees, registration) and plot them in the overall budget. Next, what kind of tools and equipment will you need to practice? Your specialty will determine how long this list can go — from medical software to computer components to furniture and medical supplies like bandages and face masks. Then you also need to think about salary, if you plan to hire a small staff to help you run things. It’s common for practitioners to get a loan to fund their venture. Just make sure that you’re in a manageable financial position and that you don’t have existing loans that can add to the debt.
Starting your own practice takes tremendous amount of time and effort — and that’s without the actual medicine practice itself. You might not necessarily be prepared to go down this path at the moment. But now that you have a good idea on what to expect, you may be ready in a few years or so. Best of luck!