The rise of global economic instability and changing labour markets means more healthcare professionals are choosing the stability of larger organizations over the risk of operating their own practices, but there’s never been a better time for doctors to be self-employed. Younger patients are demanding greater standards of personalized care, the move towards online services is making work-life balance more accessible, and a study by Statistic Brain reveals that next to finance professionals, healthcare businesses are the most likely category of startups to remain in business after four years of operation.
With more and more patients being crowded out of waiting rooms and into private care, there’s never been a better time to branch out. Here are some signs opening your own medical practice might be the right fit for you.
You want to Provide a Better Patient Experience
Younger generations are less willing to settle for larger providers with long wait times, inconvenient locations, and full calendars. They expect the same customer service from their healthcare provider as they do from other businesses, and they’re willing to shop around to get it. In a 2015 poll by PNC, millennial and gen-X consumers are more willing to change their healthcare behaviour for better service and a better price than any other generation. Younger generations are more likely to choose a conveniently located walk-in clinic than to consult with a primary care physician, and only 60% of millennials say they have a family doctor, compared to 85% of baby boomers.
Owning your own practice gives you the flexibility to hire your own staff and implement your own policies. This can be crucial in terms of customer service – in a survey by SolutionReach, two thirds of respondents said they valued customer service from their health care provider, and wouldn’t be willing to be on hold for more than a minute. Another third of them said they wouldn’t be willing to call back.
Customer service is important, and as a private practitioner, you have the freedom to hire staff and build a practice better suited to your patients. If you’re able to provide mobile services, a more convenient location, or shorter wait times, opening your own practice might give you a competitive edge.
You want to Choose Where you Work
Dream of getting out of the city? Owning your own practice is the perfect opportunity. Taking into consideration other physicians in the area, hospital availability, patient demographics, and the demand for your specialization, physicians still have a great deal of flexibility in deciding where to set up shop. Just make sure to pick a location that works for you and your family!
Nearing retirement? According to AMA’s 2018 report on physician practices, over half of private practice operators were over 55. Owning your own practice can give you the flexibility to work where you want, with equity in your business and money to retire.
You want to Work Remotely
According to a poll by PNC, there’s a new feedback loop between patients and their healthcare providers; instead of going directly to their family doctor when they have a medical question, the modern patient seeks out online research and selects from a number of alternative providers for resolution of their issue. This means the time for online marketing is better than ever – and the ability for doctors to work remotely is more accessible than in the past.
New opportunities to market your practice online has the potential to make your services global. A recent Salesforce survey found 60 percent of millennials would be open to telehealth services like video appointments over in-person doctor visits, and 75 percent of them would choose a clinic that had online appointment bookings over one that did not. This suggests a growing demand for these services, yet according to the 2018 Canadian Physician Survey, less than 10 percent of physicians in Canada offer them!
You want Room to Grow
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the number of physicians per capita reached a record high in 2019. Spots in hospitals and large employers are competitive, and opening a private practice might allow you to climb the career ladder more quickly – while only 41 percent of physicians working for an employer operated in teams of 10 people or less, this was true for 74 percent of private practice physicians. Crowded hospitals can leave physicians feeling overlooked, under-appreciated, and burnt out.
In addition, you might feel your career has hit a ceiling at your current employer and you can’t see a way out. Operating out of a smaller office means more opportunities for career growth and more connection with your coworkers and your patients. If you think your current role has hit its max, consider striking out on your own!
You want more Control over your Earnings
Since doctors in a private practice setting get a higher percentage of the gross income than a doctor employed by a group, doctors in private practice can increase their annual salary once they become owners and have more freedom to use their management skills and work in areas that interest them.
While the stability of an employer can be enticing, your long term earning potential on your own may be far greater than you’re currently making, especially as you begin to build equity in your business.
You Like to Lead Others
Years of medical school may mean you’re more interested in your specialization than in the ins and outs of running a practice – and that’s okay! There are dozens of qualified professionals an
d software solutions that can help you manage your office, so don’t stress over this part. By opening your own medical practice with the right type of staff you’ll be able to ensure your vision for the practice comes to life.
As the business owner, you will have a say in every aspect of the business, from the decor, to the staff, to the administrative procedures. This means you have a say in the entire patient experience, which is becoming more and more important as customers demand more patient friendly care.
Opening your own business can also allow you to lead in other areas too, such as expanding the reach of your practice through patient talks, public speaking, and books. It can allow you greater freedom to explore new areas of interest, share your ideas within the area of your specialization, and carve out a niche for yourself in your practice. If you’re itching to branch out to a larger audience, it may be time to break free from your employer and break out on your own.
You have a Great Team on Board
Few doctors are starting practices with only one or two doctors. Most private practices operate within a single specialty, and most of them have at least a few doctors on board. This allows you to split the overhead and administrative expenses, as well as connect your network of patients and knowledge. Plus, doctors in small practices are able to share skills and work more closely with each other to ensure the patient receives high quality care.
If you have a good network of experts in your field, consider asking them to join you in making the leap to running your own practice. Difficulty working with coworkers and bosses is one of the most common complaints across all employers, and working for yourself allows you the option of choosing who you hire. This is not only good for your staff morale, but also for the care of your patients.
You want to Provide Great Care
For most doctors, the decision to go to practice comes from a real desire to help your patients receive the best care possible. While employers might measure your care in terms of metrics, statistics, and billable hours, owning your own business gives you the opportunity to measure your outcomes in your own terms. It also gives you the flexibility to spend more time with each patient, the ability to bring in innovative treatment options, and the chance to spend more time doing what you’re great at.
You want to Take Time Off
Working for your own practice allows you to set your own hours – meaning more flexibility and a better work life balance. Overall, doctors who work for their own practices report lower levels of stress and a higher quality of life than doctors operating out of traditional healthcare employers. Whether you’re exhausted after years of medical school or burned out from giving everything to your employer, opening your own practice will allow you to spend more time with your family and less time in the office – something great for both you and for your patients!
So what’s next? Now that you’re starting to see that opening a medical practice is feasible, the next step is to look at the pros and cons of buying vs. starting your own medical practice and ultimately decide which option might work best for you.
For more on starting a practice check out our guide on How to open a Medical Practice in Canada.