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We can turn the tide on job dissatisfaction trends plaguing physicians and doctors will once again tell their sons and daughters about the great opportunities that lie ahead.
You know there is a serious problem in healthcare when seasoned physicians no longer encourage their children to become the doctors of tomorrow. During my decades-long career as a healthcare administrator for various specialty practices, I have witnessed the strong independent practitioner of my youth increasingly struggle to maintain autonomy in their business. It wasn’t long ago that a young physician could start a nice size practice on their own and count on their closest friends and colleagues to keep the patient referrals flowing. The modern era of medicine, however, calls for a fresh approach to private practice.
The medical industry of today is far more complex with ever-evolving technology, higher compliance standards, and a billing structure that can penalize providers as well as patients. All of this has contributed to a flurry of physicians opting out of independent practice with the false notion that selling to a private equity firm or working for corporate medicine will reduce their headaches. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth and these trends have only exasperated the growing projections of future healthcare provider shortages. My experience working side-by-side with physicians has given me an opportunity to identify revisions that will bolster independent practice in innovative ways doctors are often too overwhelmed to notice.
If I was a fresh medical school graduate, I’d have a hard time finding clear messaging on my best path forward into practicing medicine. With mounds of student loan debt staring me in the face, it could seem crazy to invest further into myself by becoming a practice owner or partner rather than employed in an academic medical center. That said, a lot of good data shows that is exactly what young doctors should be doing. Why?
Physicians working independently from the corporate healthcare machine have much higher job satisfaction rates and there are several reasons for that. For one, private practice doctors treat their patients with a level of autonomy that ensures they can believe in the care they provide rather than being forced to cut corners. Not only does this contribute to lower costs for higher quality of patient care, but it also creates a better work environment. When a physician works within a giant healthcare system, there’s a tremendous amount of waste that can tie the hands of well-meaning providers and negatively impact patient care. Doctors working in this environment feel a community disconnect and their daily work-life suffers.
Becoming a practice owner doesn’t have to be as cumbersome as it seems if you allow yourself to evolve beyond the old model. There are three essential ingredients to build a successful modern healthcare practice:
Having a technology-enabled practice means more than investing in a popular Electronic Health Record (EHR) platform and some accounting software. You need those systems to work seamlessly together and create reports that give you real-time analysis of your business. Your practice is producing an enormous amount of data, and your administrative team can benefit from the automated options that are available.
For whatever reason, physicians often overlook the value of strategically outsourced services such as payor contracting, credentialing, and growth advising, which can curtail their sustained profitability. Every healthcare administrator is routinely under water with a long list of to-dos and burnout is a growing problem. For that reason alone, it is in every doctor’s interest to find a good service partner. Not only will outsourcing save you the hassle of replacing a well-seasoned administrator, but it can have a positive effect on your revenue stream.
Many physicians who have been in practice for a few years feel better working with their long-time colleagues. For the modern healthcare practitioner, alliances like that do not have to take decades of golf and martinis to build. Technology has given us new avenues for collaboration with doctors from all over the country that help resolve local issues within your community. That’s part of why it is so worthwhile to seek out physicians' groups that share your values. This endeavor offers an outlet for brainstorming and networking that will foster continued growth for your practice.
Whether you decide to go out on your own or buy into an established practice, the goal is to plan your days spent treating patients your way. My hope is physicians realize there are organizations out there building resources for them to enjoy private practice again and flourish. I believe that collectively, we can turn the tide on job dissatisfaction trends plaguing physicians and doctors will once again tell their sons and daughters about the great opportunities that lie ahead if they choose a career in medicine.