> Starting and Running a Practice

Advice on Breaking Into Private Practice

Adapted from Q&A session at Winter AAD 2014

Question: If you are going to go into private practice, which as we know it’s a tough industry to break into now, what would be your advice at the current stage–knowing what we know concerning reimbursements cuts and all that?

Answer Dr. Sarnoff: First, scout the location where you will set up. If possible, go to an area where it’s not so saturated. I would recommend checking if there are any opportunities in acquiring a practice or a payout sum. For example; there was a surgeon in my area, which is suburban, who passed away recently. They [the partners] sold the practice; purchasing this type of practice would allow you to pick up where the surgeon left off, and continue it on.

Setting up a new practice is very competitive, but it’s a new world. The Internet is key; you have to have a presence with a website. Look at Facebook, and Twitter.Most importantly, be honest and a good caretaker, be available, and be affable. The beauty of a dermatology practice is patients come for check-ups — body checks are not only for screening cancer, it’s a gift in our field. Say my husband is a plastic surgeon, no one calls a plastic surgeon for a checkup; they only call the plastic surgeon when they’ve had it with their nose or something like that. They call for a reason. I can tell you that 50% of the people who come in for routine medical are interviewing you as a practice. Before they hit the doorknob on their way out if you don’t ask them first, they may ask you if you also do cosmetic or say “I just wanted to ask you about my wrinkles”, or ask what skincare creams you suggest. There’s usually something that people may want removed or something that’s cosmetic. If and then–if you have your marketing done tastefully in your office–even just samples of bottles in your room, patients will look to you for what to buy. People are looking to you for advice; they are going to ask anyway and it’s just a good way to enhance your practice.

A good note on location: If there are three dermatologists next to each other, and you move to the other side of town where there’s nothing, people may think you were ostracized and not let in to join the group. You might want to move to where the other doctors are, then go introduce yourself to those doctors in the area and try to make friends and create camaraderie.

Consulting for industry: Publishing is definitely the key, start simply. For example your purchase might be laser, which is the new kid on the block; you see the science and may be fiddling around and decide to present something and write about it. Once that starts to happen, then they recognize you. You can then get involved with a particular company. Other companies will then seek you out. Every company has a lot of opportunities; some people are better at basic science research or clinical research. Some may want to publish and do data, others may like to teach so they speak at workshops. Others are media darlings and they may have access to people in the media. They are utilizing all of you, but that’s business and you both benefit from the partnership.