By Kelly Roper
If you’ve decided to leave the corporate healthcare system and practice medicine on your own terms, your motives for choosing this route are likely varied.
Perhaps you want to offer the kind of personalized care and attention that many hospitals are unable to extend. Perhaps you want to maintain a greater amount of flexibility over your appointment schedule. Or perhaps you’re just tired of the clinical and administrative politics that often exist in corporate medicine.
Whatever the reason, operating an independent practice is undeniably worthwhile, but it also requires significant hustle. Running a business, engaging new patients and marketing your services, while remaining committed to ethical and efficient standards of medicine can seem like a tenuous balance sometimes.
The work is difficult—but it’s important and rewarding. If you have a passion for independent healthcare, but need guidance on how to expand your business and reach more people, the suggestions below can eliminate some of that guesswork for you.
Integrate an Effective Marketing Strategy.
Maintaining an active online presence is crucial for any business, but especially a healthcare practice. If your website and social media platforms aren’t being used to their full capacity, then you are overlooking a major resource to connect with your patients. Ensure the website is visually engaging, the format is easy to navigate, and the content is optimized for search engine results. This will increase traffic to the website and make information about your practice accessible to users. In addition, post interesting and relevant updates on your social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) consistently to keep followers in the know about how your practice can benefit them.
Leverage the Convenience of Technology.
An increasing number of businesses are currently going paperless, and your practice should be moving in that direction too. Instead of archaic filing and paperwork systems, digital technology has automated patient communication and record-keeping processes which makes for an organized, efficient and productive office. With technology, you can streamline patient intake forms, email appointment reminders, order prescriptions electronically, manage data entry and perform other administrative functions. This is both time-saving and more economical than a paper-based organization system. Not to mention, patients value the experience of an office that runs on technology.
Create a Dependable Network of Referrals.
Competition is fierce in today’s healthcare market, even among independent practices, so forming relationships is necessary for patient referral and retention. In order to develop this network, you need to secure a reputation of excellence in the community. Interact with people outside the office—sponsor and volunteer with local charities, lead a healthcare education workshop or attend networking events. The more accessible you are to the public, the more they will regard your practice as authentic and trustworthy. As these connections strengthen and progress over time, you will notice a higher influx of new patients, referred by the same people in your established network.
Establish a Consistent Branding Message.
A brand image is what differentiates your practice from others and evokes recognition from your target clientele. Because it’s a direct representation of you, the branding needs to be uniform across all mediums—both print and internet. Decide what message the brand should communicate to your patients and the broader medical community, then standardize that message on your website, social media outlets, business cards, signage, brochures and other forms of publicity. Think in terms of a cohesive logo and slogan, an inclusive mission statement, and homogenous details such as colors and fonts. A consistent brand results in a healthcare practice that is widely noticed and identified.
Outsource Certain Functions if Necessary.
Operating a business requires you to perform a variety of different roles, most of which probably weren’t taught in medical school. From billing patients and managing payroll to executing the administrative tasks and coordinating the schedule, when you’re managing an independent practice, your focus between healthcare and business logistics will be divided. If you’re feeling the burnout of juggling too many responsibilities, you can outsource them to agencies or independent contractors who specialize in those particular areas which will free your time to connect with patients and offer expert care.
The freedom and lack of corporate restrictions of practicing medicine independently continues to draw physicians out of mainstream hospitals and into the private sector. While growing and managing a business is strenuous work, it’s also gratifying to enhance the quality of life for the patients you serve. This is what ultimately makes independent practice such a meaningful and rewarding endeavor.
Kelly Roper is the Chief Executive Officer for Carolina Orthopaedic & Neurosurgical Associates (CONA) in Spartanburg SC. She provided leadership in a recent practice merger to now form and manage CONA–an independent group practice with sixteen physicians, seventeen physician assistants/nurse practitioners, over 120 employees and three locations. She is responsible for financial and operational management, strategic planning, physician recruitment, human resources and marketing for the practice. Kelly holds a masters in Health Administration from the Medical University of South Carolina and has worked in the industry for over twenty years.