It is very common for doctors who are starting or considering starting their own practice to get bogged down in (and sometimes overwhelmed by) the details.
How do I build a website?
Should I rent a big space or sublet a small one to get started?
How much should I spend on marketing and advertising?
Being overwhelmed by the details of stating you own medical practice shouldn’t come as a surprise. First, most of us have no business experience or training, which causes great anxiety. After all, we all spent at least 7 years or more in training before we were ever truly responsible for patient care. Second, medicine is not a “wing it” profession. Our general operating mode is to study all the details obsessively before making a decision, especially when these decision can have life and death consequences. Yet obsessing over the details can not only cause “paralysis by analysis”, but also can be counter-productive, because without first establishing your practice’s vision, you may end up making incorrect decisions. The value of starting with a vision first is that all decisions afterwards stem from your initial vision. For example, any one of the above questions (large space or sublet) can’t be made until you have a clear vision for your practice.
Medicine is not a 'wing it' profession. Our general operating mode is to study all the details obsessively before making a decision, especially when these decision can have life and death consequences. Click To Tweet
What do I mean by vision? The best example is Walt Disney. Mr. Disney was an animator, but also an entrepreneur, developing new techniques for cartoons and films that lead to great success. However, starting in the 1950’s, he decided to venture into theme parks. However, Disney didn’t just want to build a park with rides. He had a vision that he would create a place where parents and children could have fun together. While he did study other theme parks in the US and around the globe before building Disneyland, his initial concept, from the attractions to how to handle trash, was all based on this initial family friendly vision. To this day, you can still see that vision in full force when comparing a Disney park to Six Flags, Universal, or other amusement parks. In fact, Walt Disney World in Orlando was not even initially meant to be a theme park. He bough a lot of land in Florida with the vision of creating an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). While Walt Disney World did not exactly lead to what Walt might have originally had in mind, Disney’s original family friendly entertainment vision led to a global entertainment empire that even Walt couldn’t have imagined. This is important because, while your vision can change over time or what you create from that vision can go in a different direction, having that vision as a guide helps you make all decisions and can lead to something bigger and better than you may have ever dreamed.
So what do I mean by a vision for your practice? Afterall, if you are a physician that just wants to use your training to take care of patients and starting/thinking about starting your own practice because the current system doesn’t allow you to care for the patients the way you want to, which is burning you out; having a vision for your practice may seem unnecessary.
While you don’t have to have a business degree to start a medical practice, you do need to have a business mindset.
Just like Walt Disney theme parks are very different than other theme parks, you need to figure out how your practice is going to be different than other practices in your specialty. What patients are you trying to serve and why are they going to want to come to see you, especially if your cost is a little more or you aren’t taking insurance? Your vision doesn’t have to be profound or even than unique. However, if should clarify your interests and values and what you hope to achieve. Perhaps you want a holistic approach to healthcare. Maybe you want to advocate for a certain subset of patients, like women, seniors, or patients with complex chronic diseases. Vision is also about customers/patients will feel when they come your practice. In other words, vision is more about emotion and feeling than specifics or logistics.
Just like Walt Disney theme parks are very different than other theme parks, you need to figure out how your practice is going to be different than other practices in your specialty.
For example, while I already had a strong idea about what my business model was going to be, my vision (which is still on my website) was to provide “old-fashioned, personalized care” while using today’s technology. I wanted my patients to feel like it was the “good old days” of health care, but without the masses of paper charts or using outdated diagnostics or treatments. That vision helped me make every business decision moving forward including how to best market my practice, what EMR to choose, and even how to decorate my waiting room.
Once your vision is clear, this can guide you as you are making some of the detailed decision, which should hopefully relieve some anxiety. Using my practice as an example, I knew that my concierge DPC practice was going to appeal to seniors, so social media was not going to be the way to go to promote my practice. Instead, I focused on networking with individuals and businesses connected to the senior community. I also realized that starting small (no assistant, subletting in another practice) did not fit with my vision of “medicine the way it used to be,” so I decided to take out a loan, rent space, hire staff and grow into my business.
Your practice vision should only be about your patients, but also about you. You need to have a clear vision about how you want to practice medicine as well as how your practice fits into your personal life. Again, this is more about feeling than specifics, i.e. not “I am going to practice only 4 days a week, “ but rather, “ I don’t want to feel rushed when seeing patients.”
While your initial business decisions will be based on your vision, you will also be able to determine whether those decisions were correct based on how they fit your practice’s vision, and thus allow you to correct course more quickly if they don’t line up. Again, similar to Walt Disney’s original plan for Orlando, it’s OK to shift both your plans and your vision. Since opening my practice over five and half years ago, I have expanded into different services which I would never have thought of when I initially started my practice (medical cannabis, medical research, etc.). However, my original vision led me to where I am now, and even though that vision has changed over time, elements of my original vision continue to guide me to this day.