Multiple industry factors have made it increasingly difficult for individual physicians to successfully maintain a private practice, and patients could shoulder the negative effects of a more consolidated healthcare system.
Physicians in independent practice are facing rising medical liability insurance costs and lower reimbursements for the care they provide, driving many of them out of business or into a merger. The Physicians Advocacy Institute published a report that found hospitals or corporations now employ nearly seven in 10 physicians. The same report showed just under 50,000 physicians left private practice between 2019 and 2021 for roles in hospitals or other companies, such as insurers.
To succeed in a harsh economic climate and continue to offer patients choice in their care, private practitioners must find efficiencies in their practice operations and technology solutions that allow them to compete against the myriad factors working against them.
Patient Engagement Remains Key
In a 2022 Patient Experience Report from ModMed, 67% of respondents said it was important for their physician to be personable and engaged. Particularly in my specialty of plastic surgery, where patients often pay for treatments or procedures out of pocket, it’s important for patients to feel heard and involved in their treatment decisions.
Having the right engagement platform and cadence can make patients feel in-tune with their provider and more comfortable with the large personal investment they’re about to make. As one example, social media has been shown to be an effective tool among plastic surgeons for engaging an audience and attracting new patients.
Placing patient engagement at the center of a practice’s business strategy can help drive the lifeblood of our business – which is attracting and retaining our patients.
Return of the “Three As”
All physicians are familiar with the tried and true “three As” of healthcare referrals that form the foundation of any successful medical practice: ability, affability, availability. When in doubt, private practice physicians can return to the solid base lessons from the three As to reinforce their referral pipeline.
In the age of social media, affability has become even more of a priority for all physicians to attract and retain patients. Maintaining consistent and approachable social media content can help physicians stand out from their competition and help minimize any potential patients’ perceived barriers to contact, building a relationship with patient engagement well before the first clinic appointment.
Further, having a clear and well-managed schedule and easy ways to book an appointment will help foster that feeling of availability to patients. The practice management tools that physicians choose to use are central to achieving that balance.
With some specialties as tailored and subjective as cosmetics, a physician’s reputation for ability may be the most difficult to maintain. However, encouraging patients to share positive public reviews online – via a digital marketing campaign or mentioned at the end of a visit – can help ensure that positive sentiments from your happy customers are front and center.
Finding an EHR that Does Everything
When faced with tight budgetary restrictions, private practitioners should absolutely consider consolidating expensive tools by finding an “all-in-one” EHR platform.
Some EHR platforms not only function as patient record databases, but also offer patient access portals for a degree of self-service on scheduling appointments or accessing treatment plans, and can function as a patient kiosk for clinic check-ins to free up administrative staff.
By streamlining this workload, software with the right patient management functions for your specialty practice can save greatly on administrative waste and play an instrumental role in improving overall clinic operations. When the room schedules are filled smoothly and paperwork is all in line for patient arrivals, clinic staff can spend more time focusing on patients’ experiences.
Practices should also look for platforms that can support marketing efforts by helping to manage your website, SEO, digital ads, and even online reviews. An all-in-one marketing platform can save countless hours for the entrepreneur-physician to spend more time and energy with their clients, and an EHR suite that can offer the bonus of the same functions could be the sweet cherry on top to keep your overhead in check.
There’s no Big Secret to Business
Owning and running a private practice presents unique challenges for each entrepreneur-physician and comes with a combination of hurdles, depending on the market and specialty. As the economic climate continues to drive consolidation, independent practitioners are becoming increasingly important to maintaining balance and giving patients options for where they receive care.
By emphasizing patient engagement, practicing the fundamental tenets of patient retention and supporting the business with versatile software solutions, physicians can succeed in today’s climate and give patients the options they deserve.