You’ve done it! You’ve completed medical school and are now ready to set up shop and practice what you’ve learned. However, now you’re faced with a decision: Should you become an entrepreneur and start your own independent practice or become employed at a hospital? The decision is much easier than you think.
Starting and running an independent medical practice is more viable than it has ever been before, especially when you’re equipped with state-of-the-art technology. It’s much more attractive than working for a hospital, where physicians find themselves tied to quotas and financial metrics that compromise patient care and their lifestyles.
When you start your own practice, you decide you want more autonomy to make decisions that enable you to spend more time with your patients, which equates to better patient care. You want to set your own schedule and quotas, without someone telling you what you should or should not do. Join the thousands of doctors who are establishing independent medical practices; it will be one of your most rewarding professional experiences. Below are some of the most common mistakes physicians make when establishing a private practice. It’s great to be an independent practice if you do it right.
Tip #4: The Technology Chase
These are exciting times for healthcare technology. It’s refreshing to know many high-tech companies and practices are on the path to improve the quality of patient care and the patient care experience through the use of technology. At the same time, U.S. providers are offering some of the best care in the world, especially smaller, independent medical practices. You’re offering top-tier services, while meeting and maintaining compliance with government regulations, with a more personal, down-to-earth experience. This is no small order.
For the most part, healthcare and independent practices understand that both electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) systems are necessary to bring these improvements to fruition.
By now, you’ve probably been through your first round of using an EHR during Residency. The next step, as you prepare to open your practice, is to choose the one that works best for you and meets your independent practice requirements. There are key areas to consider when choosing an EHR and PM for your practice: usability, interoperability, budgeting, reporting, patient engagement and security. Search for technology that best matches the needs and workflow of your independent practice, with security and usability at the forefront.
To keep costs in check, look for cloud-based EHR and PM systems. Cloud technology gives you access to work with content available at a shared online location, rather than a local server or disk drive. All software and information is stored on an online network with the Internet as the point of access. The number of users who can access that software is securely controlled. Cloud technology offers an infrastructure that doesn’t need to be hosted at your practice and includes free upgrades to remain efficient and compliant. Additionally, budgeting is easy, as the cloud-based model affords a predictable monthly service fee. Cloud technology affords a stable monthly payment, which ensures you can predict cash on hand to pay for medical and office supplies, payroll, fees and taxes, and other necessities. Plus, there’s no need to become an IT expert, as it frees you from worrying about hardware failures or software updates, since managing those responsibilities falls on the third-party vendor.
Compared to installed software, cloud technology is uniquely defined by these characteristics:5
- On-demand: Any resources, from vital business functions to basic email, are available to all users
- Agile: Upgrades can be made and applied across the network
- Broad network access: Availability is ensured, since access is not dependent on location and can be accessed via PC, laptop, tablet, Smartphone or Smart watch
- Resource pooling: Many can use the network at one time to access the same tools and functions
- Easily scale: Highly accommodating and responds to a rapid increase in the number of users at once
Your choice of an EHR system must be intertwined with your PM. The two systems must communicate with each other, so make sure the electronic communication is seamless. Likewise, communication with other clinical and business systems, such as a patient portal, scheduling and billing, should work harmoniously together. Your new EHR and PM should provide exceptional and easy-to-read medical reporting, including benchmarking, to measure, manage and control financial performance. The ability to make informed financial decisions based on real-time data is invaluable to a small practice. This will uncover many hidden revenue opportunities.
Another must-have in today’s EHR technology environment is the use of mobile technology, including tablets and laptops, and especially Smartphones. Mobile EHR will greatly enhance your productivity. You can access patient data, medication history, allergies, immunizations, scanned documents, lab orders and results, and insurance coverage from anywhere. Connect to your staff and patients via secure messaging. Being on-call has never been easier when mobile is integrated into your EHR.
According to Tyana Daley, “The advantages are obvious: mobile devices quickly deliver medical records and other information directly into the hands of the treating physician and other members of the health care team. Tasks are synched and streamlined, meaning health care professionals can focus more on patient care than on administrative duties. As the availability, functionality and quality of handheld devices increases – at the same time as price points are decreasing – it’s a safe bet that health care professionals will be using mobile technology for many of the same functions they previously performed from behind a desk. Also, physicians and other medical providers are increasingly likely to use mobile devices to consume medical news and information. For doctors on hospital rounds, mobile devices offer tremendous potential in terms of patient consultations. The ability to see results – as opposed to simply hearing them recited – can be a huge step toward putting patients at ease and ensuring their understanding of their diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. That, in turn, helps create a relationship of trust.”6
Investing in technology, whether hardware and software, diagnostic equipment, or other necessary products and services, is a given in the medical industry. Small practices must be innovative and remain on top of advances in the industry, because the ultimate goal is providing the very best care to each patient.
If you’re graduating soon from medical school or planning to leave a larger medical practice or hospital, to practice independently for the first time, here’s the first of five eBooks to help you quickly become up to speed on running a successful practice:
Free eBook: Small Practice Software Comparison Guide
5. McAfee, Andrew, What Every CEO Needs to Know About The Cloud. Harvard Business Review, November 2011.
6. Daley, Tyana, Health 2.0 News. Health Care Professional Tapping into Mobile Devices, May 23, 2013.