> Starting and Running a Practice

Your First Year of Private Practice: 4 tips to building a successful business

Congrats! You have made it through years of hard training, passed the boards, and landed your first “real” job! For the majority of new dermatologists, their first job after residency will be in a private practice setting with a one- to two-year guaranteed salary. Below are some key areas to focus on in those early years in order to build a successful practice.

1. Grow your patient base

o While you are salaried, patient volume is less important, but once you transition to an RVU-based or revenue-generating payment model, how busy you are on a daily basis will become the main income-determining factor

o A specialist will need roughly 20 primary care physicians referring to them on a regular basis to maintain adequate patient volume. Consider the first years of your job as a time to meet face to face with referring physicians and ramp up your referral basis. Make a handout with highlights from your CV, your areas of interest and a professional headshot, and bring these and plenty of business cards with you.

o Additional advertising via local newspaper ads, community bulletins, medical association websites and social media can go a long way to increasing patient volume and are relatively inexpensive.

o Develop habits that will ensure referring physicians will continue to send patients your way. Send patient visit notes or summary letters in a timely manner. Include copies of pathology reports and lab tests if ordered. If you are able to work in same-day urgent patients, physicians will refer to you time and time again.

o Satisfied patients are a great source of referrals. Oftentimes, if a patient likes you, he/she will refer their family members and friends to you. Have business cards available in your exam rooms and reception area for patients.

2. Train your staff

o Take the time to properly train your staff. Your staff members want to learn how you like to perform procedures, inform patients of results, schedule appointments, etc. Taking the time up-front to train your staff will pay dividends by increasing efficiency. Be as specific as possible during the training process to minimize confusion and ambiguity. Give positive and constructive feedback to your staff.

3. Establish office policies

o In residency, you were often at the mercy of established clinic policies whether or not you personally agreed with them. Now you have the opportunity to create policies which will help you provide the best patient care.

o Written policies will give your staff concrete expectations to relay to patients. Some policies to consider include: self-pay patients, late arrivals and no-shows, meeting with drug representatives, abusive patients, dispensing narcotics, and prescription refill requests.

4. Create your niche

o Early in practice is a good time to cultivate your specific dermatologic interests when your time is more protected.

o If you are interested in cosmetics, do additional training, attend conferences pertinent to your niche, and give discounts to initial patients to help build a cosmetic patient base.

o Consider developing interests in areas of dermatology that may be locally underrepresented, such as patch testing, sclerotherapy, dermoscopy or phototherapy.

These are just some key ways to help you in your first year of practice.  Feel free to take these items and expand on them.  There is no right way and no magic formula for success.  Good luck!

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