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What to Know When Relocating as a Physician

What to Know When Relocating as a Physician

For Harry L. Greenberg, a dermatologist based in Las Vegas, Sin City had long represented the ultimate location, both due to its quirky character and to its opportunities for practicing his specialty.

After finishing his dermatology residency in Temple, Texas, Greenberg joined a large single-specialty practice in Las Vegas in 2006. One year later, Greenberg created his dream practice, Las Vegas Dermatology. "I've always wanted to live in Las Vegas and have my own practice," he says. "Vegas represented an underserved area with plenty of opportunity to do medical and cosmetic dermatology."

While some physicians relocate to pursue new markets or employment opportunities, others make the move for personal reasons. Deciding where to relocate is the first of many challenges, according to Keith Borglum, a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based healthcare business consultant who assisted Greenberg with opening his practice. "Most are focused on a particular city because they are relocating to be near family or the spouse's family, or sometimes for a personal avocation, like surfing or mountain biking," Borglum says.

Once location is no longer a variable in the equation, the soon-to-be displaced physician can take the next steps. These may vary, depending on whether the physician is considering a job offer, buying a practice, or starting from scratch. If starting from scratch, setting business objectives and creating a marketing plan are essential steps.

Regardless of scenario, the physician should start developing the blueprints of her new professional life before relocation, says Neville M. Bilimoria, a partner in the Chicago office of the Health Law Practice Group of the law firm Duane Morris. "Many physicians realize [after moving] that the grass is not always greener in a new location," Bilimoria says. "It takes sometimes years to establish a practice in a particular locale. I counsel my clients all the time on developing a good business plan and marketing strategy to help establish their practices."

Building a New Practice

For physicians who do not plan to join an existing practice, "mystery shopping" is the best initial strategy, Borglum says. In other words, physicians should test out healthcare providers in their new area to see what the needs are in that market. "The longer the wait time for non-emergency new patients in the community, the easier it is to start from scratch," he says. "Your wait time will equal the community [wait time] within the first year. I've had physicians have full practices within two or three weeks of opening. Others lag for months."

Picking an underserved market, such as locations 30 minutes or more outside the core urban area, is the best way to jumpstart a new practice, Borglum says.

As a new business owner, Greenberg put a lot of effort into attracting new patients. "I joined the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, went door to door introducing myself to other physicians, asking them for their business, and gave multiple lectures at the medical school and various community organizations," he explains. "Whenever you move to a new city, no one knows who you are and no one cares, so it does take time to get established."


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