Eight Things I've Learned as a Private Practice Physician

September 22, 2014

It is my medical practice's fifth anniversary. Here are eight things I've learned about myself and running a business.

We recently marked our practice's fifth anniversary. Wow! Five years! I've been blogging for Physicians Practice for just about that same amount of time. While I did a lot of research before I opened my own office, I've learned a lot over the years.

1. No matter how well-planned your budget is, there will be unexpected expenses, so you must always have a cushion of funds to fall back on. Printers, scanners, and computers break and need replacing. Toilets get clogged and plumbers need to be paid. An unexpected stinkbug population can take hold and the exterminator needs to be called.

2. Choose your staff wisely. The initial interview is important, but checking references more so. Make sure that the potential employee's goals match up with the practice's. Know what you want out of an employee both in terms of skills and attitudes.

3. Listen to your staff. When they say something is a problem, whether it is about a patient or another employee, listen. It doesn't mean that you need to act upon it right away, but pay close attention. Is someone really using her phone too often during work hours? Is it causing her to be distracted, leading to errors, etc.? Is a patient taking up too much staff time by repeatedly calling? Can it be addressed during the patient's visit?

4. Staying up to date with regulations is as time-consuming as staying up to date with developments in medicine, and in some ways, is as equally important.

5. Being a physician and a business owner, your roles can sometimes seem conflicting. As a physician, your primary concern is the patient's well-being. As a business owner, it is the practice's well-being. And sometimes those two things are not the same. I try not to actively get involved in the patients' accounts, and hate to bring it up during visits, but there are some patients who not only refuse to pay but are belligerent with the staff about it.

6. I don't care what other practices do, I will not double book. I cannot do my job well and keep my sanity if I do.

7. No matter where I am, I am always "on." I can be in Orlando, I will still be checking on the office, and on my work. I think about it in the shower. I think about it at 2 a.m. OK, maybe I need a little therapy.

8. I probably don't need to be "on." The office has managed to survive without me on several occasions and nothing tragic has happened.

I am sure I am forgetting dozens of other little things I've learned along the way, but I have to get ready for our anniversary dinner.