For the majority of Medical history, physicians worked for themselves, effectively treating patients while running a small business. It was not until 2018 that the number of employed physicians surpassed those who owned their own Practice. While the idyllic notion of exchanging medical care for food items or services is a relic of the past, many benefits still remain to combining the art of medicine with its business aspects. If you’ve ever considered starting your own medical practice or joining a group of like-minded physician-entrepreneurs, read on to see if you have what it takes to make private practice the right step for you.
You enjoy professional flexibility
Private medical practices are versatile, ranging from single physician practices to large multi-specialty physician-owned groups. Physician run practices can be found in small, remote towns to large metropolitan areas and include boutique medical practices, as well as cutting edge organizations rivaling university medical centers. Obviously, private practice is not a one-size-fits-all entity, as it provides a range of opportunities for physicians at all stages of their career.
For those physicians with financial stability, documented clinical experience, and a desire to provide a unique medical experience, starting a solo medical practice or taking over from a retiring physician may be the right choice. While solo practices can be a more formidable challenge for recently graduated physicians tackling medical school debt or lacking attending experience, it still is possible with grit, business acumen, and professional support. For physicians who prefer collaborating with a wider network of physicians, larger single or multi-specialty practices offer an opportunity for autonomy via a one or two- year pathway to partnership.
Despite the differences, a commonality of all private practices is the ability for physicians to step into leadership roles by directing the provision of medical care. In these groups, physicians lead without the need to navigate the bureaucracy of hospital boards or CEOs with MBAs. Within the private practice setting, medical decisions, as well as the intricacies of how health care is delivered, are made by the physicians, whether a single practitioner or a hundred or more like-minded physician colleagues.
Physicians across all practice settings are spending an increasing number of hours on paperwork and administrative duties outside of patient care. As a private practice physician, you will have a voice in the day-to-day running of the practice, allowing you input regarding the medical technologies the business invests in to better streamline such tasks. Private practice can also provide schedule flexibility, as certain large multispecialty practices rival hospital employed positions in terms of call coverage, and smaller practices can join forces with other local groups to improve call.
You enjoy being your boss
While it takes a certain entrepreneurial spirit to run your own medical business, joining a private practice doesn’t mean you’ll need to be a serial entrepreneur or have an MBA. Physicians choosing this route will need to be aware of the current state— and future trends— of health care delivery locally and nationally. You’ll also need to navigate relationships with other health care entities such as local medical practices, medical insurers, and hospitals. Small business, including medical practices with an annual revenue between $7.5 – 32.5 million, make up 99.7% of business in the US. These businesses make up the backbone of our economy, are a vital part of the local community, and provide physicians the opportunity to take back the reins of medical care delivery.
Within a physician owned practice, you’ll be able to prescribe appropriate care to your community without layers of red tape or policy, using the medical acumen developed during years of medical education and training. In this setting, motivated physicians can widen their focus to include community health, niche medical services, complementary and alternative care, or any other health related area that sparks professional joy.
There is a sense that private practice demands more of a physician’s time due to the associated administrative and business responsibilities. This can be true, especially if you choose to build a solo or small single-specialty practice. Such physicians need to be aware of the startup costs— both in terms of time and money— of building a business. However, a key part of any great business involves building efficient models that streamline business processes and allow wise use of all available resources. Physicians in private practice will want to employ exemplary administrative staff, legal and financial advisors that support the practice’s medical vision and ensure the business is run well. While this staff can provide valuable council, it remains up to the private practice physicians to develop the culture of the practice and guide its overall trajectory. The key to enjoying this work is honestly assessing if you have the common personality traits of an entrepreneur. Many of the traits, such as passion and resilience, align well with physician values and will see physicians through a rewarding private practice career.
You have a creative streak
We all know that there is an art to medicine, and the same can be said of business. A medical practice, like any other business, requires commitment, passion and an openness to discovery. In medical practice, the business model is married to the health and well-being of patients. While some may worry about the impact of financial decisions on health care delivery, a well thought out medical model can improve access to medical care in your community while ensuring that private practice physicians— and the staff— are well compensated for their expertise.
Private practice physicians have the opportunity to drive the delivery of health care while embracing the artistic side of business, including advertising and marketing, development of the business culture and professional outreach to the local community. Private practice provides the opportunity to combine non-medical talents, such as an interior design, community outreach, and social media know-how with your professional medical skills. Creating and executing a vision of medical care is a unique pathway that many private practice physicians will find wholly rewarding.
Choosing the right practice type for you
Deciding on the best practice type takes a bit of background research to ensure it is the right fit. Having a foundational understanding of your career goals and professional personality as well as the community you will serve is essential to determining if the private practice model makes sense for you. Physicians must be aware of the range of private practice opportunities and be honest about their entrepreneurial interests to make the right decision. Having a baseline level of knowledge and willingness to learn about business plans, payment models and regulatory systems are key to thriving in this practice setting. Take the time to identify your unique career goal, and you just might find that private practice will catapult you towards them!