The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Challenges of owning a small healthcare practice

Here are 5 challenges for independent practices and how to deal with them

owning a small healthcare practice graphic

Running a small healthcare practice isn’t easy, but nearly half of physicians (45.9 percent) think the extra work is worth it. That’s the percent of doctors who own a healthcare practice, according to the American Medical Association.

In time for National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day on March 28, here’s a look at some of the hurdles physician-owners face.

Common challenges of running an independent healthcare practice

1. Lack of time and expertise for medical marketing

You want to spend your workday helping patients, not focusing on marketing tasks. However, if your peers at other practices make medical marketing a priority, patients may be less likely to choose your practice if you don’t do the same.

For example, 70 percent of companies actively invest in content marketing, according to HubSpot. Another 74 percent actively invest in social media marketing and about 64 percent actively invest time in search engine optimization.

It’s important to have a comprehensive medical marketing plan that covers all the bases — i.e. SEO, social media, blogging, advertising, etc. You likely don’t have time the time or expertise to manage this on your own, so consider delegating these responsibilities to an internal marketing professional or a third party.

2. Minimal work-life balance

Working as a physician is always demanding, but it can be even more challenging when you own a healthcare practice. When you do not have a corporate structure or any partners to help manage the workload, it’s easy to become overworked.

Not surprisingly, 36 percent of office-based solo practitioners are burned out, according to Medscape. Generally speaking, 55 percent of all physicians claim too many bureaucratic tasks contribute to their burnout and another 33 percent blame too many hours at work.

If you’re suffering from physician burnout, take a careful look at how you’re spending your time each day. You might not be able to do much about the amount of time you’re seeing patients, but you can seek help with administrative tasks, so you’re able to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

3. Cash flow issues

Your small healthcare practice needs to remain profitable to keep the lights on and continue providing the level of care your patients deserve. However, this is often easier said than done, as things like collecting payments — from both patients and insurance companies — declining reimbursements, and practice expenses can make this a challenge.

For example, medical malpractice insurance premiums can be very costly. Prices vary by specialty and location, but physicians specializing in internal medicine in Connecticut realized average annual premiums of $34,700 in 2017, according to the AMA. Significantly higher, those specializing in obstetrics/gynecology in New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties paid $214,999 that same year.

Finding a solution to this problem is certainly easier said than done. However, it’s important to have a solid budget in place, along with goals for practice growth and a plan of action to achieve them.

4. Hiring the right people

Chances are, your small medical practice has at least a few employees that keep it running smoothly. As your practice grows and/or employees move on to their next ventures, you’re forced to hire new team members.

This is no small matter, as the average cost per hire is $4,129, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Additionally, the average time it takes to fill a position is 42 days.

Clearly, making a hiring mistake is costly, so it’s important to choose carefully. Requesting referrals from employees and your network can help you make better hires. Staffing firms can also help you fill the gaps in the interim, so you can avoid the stress of being short-staffed. 

5. Lack of patient retention

You want everyone you treat to become a loyal patient, but people have plenty of options. If they have a negative experience with your practice, they probably won’t return — unless you make things right.

Asking patients to provide feedback is an important way to learn where you stand. In fact, when practices address a patient’s negative online feedback, patient satisfaction levels roughly double to 99 percent.

Of course, a poor experience with your practice isn’t the only reason patients move on to your competition. For example, 77 percent of patients seek out providers who offer the ability to request prescription refills electronically, according to Accenture.

Requesting feedback after each visit also allows you to learn what more you could be doing to increase patient satisfaction. This gives you the opportunity to enhance your offerings before people decide to head elsewhere.

Managing a small healthcare practice is hard work, but it’s worth it. The secret to lasting success is knowing when to seek help — for example, with medical marketing tasks — because you can’t do it all on your own.

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Written by

Bianca Wollman, medical marketing consultant

Bianca Wollman is the senior manager of customer marketing at Tebra and resides in Marina Del Rey. She has extensive experience consulting private medical practices on SEO and marketing strategies and has led healthcare customer marketing efforts for the last 3 years. Bianca previously worked in the tourism marketing industry in Washington, DC.

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