People always envision doctors live glamorously and make exceptionally high salaries, but those in the healthcare industry know that big paychecks are not always a given. This is especially true in healthcare entrepreneurship and practice management.
Unfortunately, many high-level healthcare professionals are not trained on the critical aspects of business needed to make a medical office successful — these skills just aren’t widely taught in medical school. So let’s look at how to fill gaps in business knowledge so you can reap the rewards of your medical degree.
If you aren’t convinced you really need any business training, check out this article explaining why new physicians will need business school skills.
Why doctors and healthcare professionals struggle with practice management
Many physician practice owners struggle with day-to-day management and profitability when they enter their career. This also applies to those who received some business training in medical school. Why is this happening? Here are a few reasons:
- The idea exits that there isn’t traditional business competition in healthcare. And it’s simply false. In an era when it is easier than ever for patients to rate and share their healthcare experience online, it’s not enough to simply be a medical provider and rely on the notoriety of your profession.
- Physician entrepreneurs and practice managers often make the mistake of assuming they always know what’s best for their business, but this can take a toll on your success. We all have our blind spots and someone with complementary skills may be able to see things we can’t see. Hiring a third party or even a staff member to complete a job that’s eating away from your productivity may cost you, but remember your own time and opportunity cost may actually be more expensive.
- Business owners often miss out on the learning opportunities that come with peer-to-peer connections and mentorship. You’re either busy running your business or seeing patients and it’s hard to make time for professional development. Taking the time to learn from others is an investment in your business.
- There’s a common phrase, “If you build it they will come”. This is true when you have a great location, but not necessarily in areas saturated with competition, in a mostly vacant strip mall, or a spot with very little visibility traffic. Do your due diligence and research a good location, or you will rely heavily on marketing and referrals to get patients in the door.
Hiring well for a profitable practice
Since the vendors you select and individuals you staff to run the office will be critical to the success of your healthcare venture, let’s discuss a few hiring best practices.
- Make your first hire your best hire: The right initial hire with an experienced office manager, will help you start from scratch with better scheduling, billing processes, and payroll. Plus, you’ll have a point person for day-to-day challenges or issues in the office, so you’ll be able to dedicate your working hours to patient care. Remember — smart business isn’t about doing all the work yourself.
- Negotiation skills are essential in hiring vendors and staff: Healthcare offices require things like medical supply vendors, decisions about employee salary, leases or property purchases and relationships with paying insurance companies. That means you or your practice administrator will need excellent negotiation strategies so you can create favorable contracts for your business.
- Outsource your bookkeeping: Look for an accounting firm with experience working with medical offices since there will be unique needs with payment and billing transactions. They will help ensure your patients receive timely invoices so you can get quicker payment, and their help will really come in handy when it comes time to file taxes. Stay involved in the health of your finances, but let the bookkeepers handle the details.
- Protect your practice from legal action: Any doctor can have a medical malpractice claim filed against them. When you own the practice where you deliver care, you may not be able to sustain your business while you are paying legal fees and malpractice settlements. It’s always important to try and avoid patient injury and reduce the likelihood of a malpractice claim, but when you own your practice, this type of prevention is directly linked to your livelihood. Make sure every member of your medical staff is up to date on patient care best practices and invest in a solid medical malpractice insurance policy for your own protection.
- Don’t underestimate front office talent. Since many patients forget to prioritize annual checkups and preventative care, a good receptionist is worth their weight in gold. They should not only serve as a friendly face, but follow up with patients and encourage them to keep their existing appointments, so you can reduce the chances a diagnosis might be missed or delayed.
Skills to practice for better business
Investing time in building the following skills through business workshops, networking events, and other professional development arenas will have a long-term impact on your healthcare business.
- Filing the right business forms: The paperwork you file in the beginning of your health business can have a big impact down the road. If you are going to file your business forms yourself, you’ll want to read our step by step guide to healthcare business forms.
- Interviewing: It’s not always as easy as it sounds to hire qualified professionals you can trust to care for patients and run the office. A few pointers will save you time and money by helping you avoid making the wrong hire:
- It’s always best to verify professional qualifications listed on resumes.
- Include critical thinking questions in the interview that cause applicants to think on their feet and discuss how they would respond to real life scenarios.
- Interviewing skills improve with practice, so you might run through a few mock interviews before the real thing if you are just beginning to staff your practice.
- Accounting: Basic accounting skills are required to run a business, even when you leave the heavy lifting to a professional accountant or bookkeeper. You should be able to project future costs for your business and know how to determine if you’re turning a profit — especially in the first months of your startup. Fortunately, there is plenty of accounting software for small businesses, so you don’t need an accounting degree to crunch the numbers for your practice.
- Marketing: If you’re the only doctor in your specialty around, it might be easy to book a full schedule of appointments, but general practitioners may need to work a little harder to bring patients in. Marketing is extremely important for healthcare businesses in the information age, so you may need to invest in a website, a social media content manager, and frequent ads in order to see an increasing number of new and returning patients. You may also want to invest time in responding to patient reviews on various sites, as these can have a strong influence on your office’s reputation.
How healthcare entrepreneurs can boost their business savvy
Here’s a look at where to get the most “bang for your buck” in acquiring basic business skills or boosting your existing knowledge base.
- Networking Events: Especially if you own a medical practice, it can be helpful to network with other small business owners at local networking events. Take a look at the small business organizations in your area and see which ones are holding upcoming events or have memberships to take advantage of. These networking opportunities can help you build connections with other small business owners to learn where they access helpful resources, or which practices they use to make their own businesses succeed. Networking also gets your name out there, which is a big part of building your brand when you run a medical practice.
- Online Colleges and Universities: It is probably impractical for you to go back to school full time to get a business or MHA degree, and it’s not a necessity for running a successful business. Still, it can be helpful to further your education and professional credentials with formal training. Since showing up to class can be a challenge on a doctor’s busy schedule, look for coursework you can complete online for areas where you need deeper business knowledge. Taking a marketing course, for example, might be a boon to your practice, because you will learn how to most effectively advertise your clinic and maintain its good reputation.
- Secure a Mentor: It is so important for you to be able to find a mentor and learn how to grow the relationship. Spend the time to find someone who will help you be able to connect with the right people and help make sure you are on the right path towards success.