There are myriad processes the new practice must set up across a broad range of disciplines, including medical, legal, technologic, insurance, business, and management. While many physicians have tried to save money by doing all of this themselves, it may not be the best way to proceed, as failure to correctly establish these systems may be a very expensive proposition for the practice. Practices need to weigh the skill set of the physician(s) in the new practice and consider whether they have the necessary training and experience on these complex topics.
Herein lies the dilemma of consultants and advisors. Doctors are notoriously averse to paying others to do tasks that they somehow feel they ought to be able to do for themselves. After all, how hard could it be for the bright individuals who go into medicine? Unfortunately, it is considerably harder than it looks. Choosing the proper help is vital to a new practice. Such help includes a practice management consultant, health care accountant (not only bookkeeper), and a health care lawyer (not a general practitioner). All of these consultants can entail significant expense in the short run. However, when used properly, they will pay for themselves many times over.
Practice Management Consultant
Hiring an experienced practice management consultant is a good idea. It is important to begin working with a consultant during your third year of residency. Lay and physician consultants are available. Consultants can provide the overview you need to coordinate and get the most out of other consultants. They can review practice processes from a functional end-user point of view and can assist in assessing whether the business plan will work in a real-world setting. Consultants are also available to assist with coding and physician profit distribution, staffing, salaries, and marketing. Often, they can assist with drafting documents for later legal review. Consultants are available to help compare electronic health record (EHR) products and practice management software (PMS), negotiate with payers, and construct an office policy manual. Finally, consultants can even help run a new practice until a practice management team is hired.
Health Care Accountant
A good health care accountant is someone who does more than keep the practice’s books. This accountant will help with budgeting, facilitate contacts at local financial institutions, supply advice in financing business practices, and provide frequent reports benchmarking the practice’s performance against other practices in the field using national norms and local experience.
Some practices choose to have everything set up by their legal advisor. While this may be possible with an experienced health care attorney, their time is the most expensive of all consultants. They may be good at what is legal but may not appreciate the day-to-day dynamics of medical practice management and administration. A good legal mind to advise on partnership agreements, corporate structure, leases, contract negotiations, and contracts is absolutely vital. Yet many of these tasks can be started with lower cost consultants, with only a final legal review at the end. Please realize that none of this advice comes cheap, but it is a worthy long-term investment to make sure the new practice is primed for success.