New Year's Resolutions for Physicians: Business and Asset Protection

January 7, 2014

Here are some core issues physicians should consider from our previous discussions on personal finance.

The start of a new year is a time at which we are psychologically conditioned to make changes and resolutions to eliminate negative, risky behavior. Below are some core issues to consider that have been at the heart of many of our previous discussions.

1. Resolve to have a plan. We've previously discussed the importance of a business plan, which includes not just the operational budget plan but also sound employment procedures, record-keeping standards, and even specialty insurance plans tailored to the realities of your business. Sometimes even a set of simple lists is a great start; having a specific game plan with goals, delegation, and accountability is key to your practice's continued success and survival.

2. Resolve to manage risk, not crisis. Again looking back to having a plan, this issue echoes what you strive for with your own patients. Identifying and eliminating or controlling risks is always more time- and cost-effective than heroic treatment after the problem has occurred. In some cases treatment may be not even be a viable option; some exposures may be legally or financially fatal, as in the case of onerous litigation or issues of insolvency that have affected so many physicians over the last six years. This means being educated about the many forms of insurance your practice requires beyond your medical liability coverage and having the best compliance procedures available on everything from drug screening to patient HIPAA and financial data.

3. Resolve to make managing your medical business as important as running it. Many successful business owners of all types, including doctors, are so caught up in the demands of running the practice day to day that they don't make time to look at the bigger picture, including keeping the business on plan and making sure that the details aren't being overlooked. You are both a key employee and the CEO in many cases so schedule specific times throughout the year at which you will review your progress and the changes that need to be made. How many issues are there that you've "always meant to get done…" that need attention this year? If you don't take care of those issues one of them may prevent you from continuing to practice. Protect the golden goose as well as the eggs.

4. Resolve to take care of yourself. In some cases this means having adequate life, disability, and long-term care insurance you've neglected. In others it's the right amount of insurance on personal liability outside the practice or simply making tax planning a priority now, instead of April 1 when your time and options are limited; you need to make yourself a priority as a practice owner. Remember that at its core your practice is a business that exists for you and your family. Ignoring your own health and solvency places all your efforts and the futures of your patients and employees at risk. Make your own estate, tax, financial, and asset-protection planning a priority.

This list should be tailored to your specific needed improvements and dozens of items long; we've covered many of the items that should be on it with great detail in past columns. As you prioritize your own personalized list of resolutions for this year please use that body of work as a resource and contact us with questions and concerns that we can help navigate. I look forward to another year of your continued success.