Is It Time For A Non-Physician Provider?

July 25, 2011

Currently, the wait for a new patient appointment with me is about two months, and for Dr. F it’s about four weeks. This is infinitely better than the six-month wait that exists in other offices ... but there are certainly patients that need to be seen sooner.

Our practice has been fortunate enough to have plenty of patients. I opened my doors for the first time just under two years ago. By the start of the second year, I hired my associate. When I brought her into the practice, the wait for a new patient appointment was about three months. Potential patients were unhappy, although many of those who called other offices for appointments called us back because the wait is even longer elsewhere.

It has taken a while for my associate’s panel to fill up. It seems that despite her being with me for the last year, referring physicians are still telling patients to see me. Not that they are telling patients not to see Dr. F, they just aren’t telling them to see whichever one of us is available.

Currently, the wait for a new patient appointment with me is about two months, and for Dr. F it’s about four weeks. This is infinitely better than the six-month wait that exists in other offices (if they are taking new patients at all), but there are certainly patients that need to be seen sooner. But there are only so many hours in a day, and we can only see one patient at a time. So I’ve been thinking the only way to make room for more new patients is to have somebody else see some of the follow-up patients. Also, if somebody else could field some of the phone calls, we could carve out more time in our schedule for patient visits. Oh, sure, other alternatives would be to shorten patient visits, or double-book, or work 24/7, but I think that would have a negative impact on patient care; and my psyche. And another option is add another doc to the practice, but I don’t think we are financially ready for that now.

I am, of course, plagued with questions. How will patients feel about intermittently being seen by a non-physician provider? Should I start this person part-time at first? Will it be as cost-effective as I hope it will be? If I plan on having this person start seeing patients in six months, do I start looking now? I mean, after all, once I finally choose someone, we need to get him/her credentialed with the insurance companies and that can take weeks. I also worry that I am planning this too soon. And what about support staff? I think we’ll still be OK with the 2 clerical people I have, but will my medical assistant be overworked, or will the PA or NP actually relieve her of some of her duties? And I don’t even know where to start looking. I do know someone who would be perfect for the job, but I don’t know if I can afford her.

I’m going to keep contemplating this for a while. I’m going to have to do a little more research. Perhaps I’ll be struck with inspiration.

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