Running a successful medical practice is more than taking care of patients. And while most doctors would prefer to just focus on medicine and patients, there are a number of other responsibilities that can come with being a physician at a private practice.
Balancing the business of medicine with patient care is simply unavoidable if you are in a private practice. Finding and hiring the right physicians that understand the business and patient balance avoids a number of problems down the road. Hiring someone that simply wants to practice medicine can lead to friction between other physicians when they are left with an overwhelming amount of responsibilites.
Because medical business isn't necessarily being taught in medical school, some physicians just want to practice medicine. They don't want to deal with the increasing regulations on healthcare or how many patients walk in the door. Instead they anticipate someone else handling these tasks while they see patients. Of course physicians are trained to provide healthcare to patients but physicians in private practices are also wearing multiple hats. So how do you continue to hire new physicians that are a good fit for your private practice but also avoid burnout?
Dislike of Business Management Tasks Common Among Physicians
A Business News Daily interview with seven physicians found almost universal dislike for the bureaucratic and administrative aspect of practicing medicine. Specific dislikes mentioned by physicians included insurance battles, the necessity for practice consolidation, documentation requirements, increasing overhead, and the insertion of insurance companies (in the form of pre-authorization and other requirements) between doctors and patients.
Asked what they enjoy most about their work, physicians universally cite helping people get better and improving patients' lives. But being able to do this without getting bogged down in business-related necessities is challenging, and becoming more challenging with each passing year.
Focus in on the business management tasks that are disliked. See if there are ways you can solve these problems or push them onto someone else. Outsource the medical billing to avoid physicians having to battle with insurances. Find the right EHR or transcription service to help with documentation. Hire a consulting company to help with Meaningful Use or other government incentive programs. This can dramatically ease the frustration that providers sometimes experience when attempting to understand these things on their own.
Separating Management from Governance
It's also important for physicians to understand the sometimes fine distinction between practice management and practice governance. What physicians have to do is provide governance for their practice, which involves articulating the practice vision, charting the direction of progress, and building smart, workable policies.
Management, on the other hand, is what's involved in running the practice. It's what practice managers, billing and coding professionals, schedulers, and other non-clinical personnel do.
Hiring new physicians can be complicated by their desire to simply practice medicine and not be bothered with the business side of the profession. But conversations with potential new hires about each physician's role in practice governance are vital to avoid hiring mistakes or leading new physicians to believe their job will be something it's not. Management tasks can be delegated, but governance cannot.
Taking the Time to Hire Well and Grow Prudently
When growth is a goal, steady, measured progress can be far better than rapid expansion. For one thing, slower growth allows your team to hire more carefully. Hiring mistakes at best waste time and money, and at worst they can jeopardize the future of a practice.
However hands-on or hands-off physicians are towards management, it's essential that they hire non-clinical staff with the appropriate amount of autonomy in running the practice. The additional time and effort that goes into making good hiring decisions is more than offset by better day-to-day operations and fewer bureaucratic worries.
Making Use of Technology Where Possible
Technology definitely has a role in the business side of practicing medicine, and physicians must determine how technology fits into their long-term vision of the practice. This will influence which physicians are hired as the practice grows, the qualifications of non-clinical workers, and which (if any) business-related tasks are outsourced.
The right electronic health record (EHR) system can take some of the burden off clerical workers by, for example, delivering automated appointment reminders and allowing appointment scheduling online. Your EHR software should also be delivering practice management reports to help physicians better understand the performance of the practice's revenue cycle.
Rare is the modern physician who can avoid dealing with the business side of medicine in some capacity, and more common is the physician who has to learn more than he or she ever expected to have to learn about running a business.
Understanding which tasks are most disliked by physicians, knowing how to separate practice governance from practice management, hiring wisely, and having a sound technology strategy are all ways physicians can learn to balance patient care and business concerns.