With the rate of mergers and acquisitions currently occurring within America’s Healthcare industry, it is often said that it is getting more difficult to operate a successful, privately-owned medical practice. In our travels as nationwide consultants, we have found the availability to join private practices has dwindled in the last several years, but, it is far from dead. Here are five topics to ponder while taking a position with a private practice into consideration.
- Autonomy: Private practices are generally owned and operated by a physician or group of physicians. These owners are the makers of all policies and procedures. Ask how long will it take for you to become a member of the decision making committee. Will your specific practice needs be met with the current procedures in place?
- Compensation: A potential benefit of operating a private practice is the ability of the group to keep overhead as low as possible. In theory, this will leave behind larger chunks of income to be distributed to employees, in the form of salaried compensation, and to the owners, in the form of profits. You need to be aware of where your position in both arenas will be. Not only should you make sure your salary is competitive to comparable hospital-employed opportunities, but, you also need to know when you will become part of the profit sharing that benefits the owners of the group.
- Expenses: As mentioned above, expenses will have a major impact on your income. It is imperative that you discuss the practice’s current overhead and how the practice expenses affect your bottom line. Ask specifically what expenses your position will be responsible for. We’ve seen the full spectrum; from physicians seeing individual expenses for the supplies on their desk, to each specialty, within a multi-specialty group, being their own cost centers, down to all expenses getting split equally among all physicians in the group.
- Patient Referral System: One of the most important aspects of being successful in any practice, but, especially private practice, is knowing where your patient volume will come from. A common complaint among younger physicians that are looking to move on from a private practice is that the referral patterns are set up to favor the most senior members of the group. Specifically discuss patient referral patterns and how long it will take for you to have a busy practice.
- Marketing of your individual brand name: Sometimes you walk into a busy practice on day one. Perhaps you are replacing a retiring physician or one that moved on from a full patient load. However, building a practice usually requires getting the word out, and that is where marketing is going to come into play. Be sure the group has a plan to market you to the public, and do your best to get a good idea of what forms the marketing may be, ie: newspaper and yellow page ads, public speaking appearances, or even TV commercials.
These are just a few of the aspects to consider when joining a private practice. We represent many private practices throughout the country and would be happy to discuss these opportunities, and how you can excel in a private practice, with you at any time.