Do you have a medical practice or a medical business? The answer to this question is important, because it highlights some of the problems and conflicts medical professionals experience during the course of their careers. It is easy to lean toward one answer to this question, given the extensive training we have, but this leads to a dearth in the other option.
In many ways, there seems to be an inherent conflict between the practice of medicine and the business of medicine. This is a precedent with deep roots grounded in the perceptions of established medical leaders when I first started practicing orthopedics in the early 1980s. At that time, there nothing vaguely resembling the Internet, and posting anything more than your name and phone number in the Yellow Pages was deemed as potential grounds for disciplinary action from local medical societies. Heaven forbid a display ad that described the services you offered.
A “good” practitioner of medicine in the ‘70s or ‘80s would never advertise his or her services; it just wasn’t done. Almost everything was done by referrals or word-of-mouth. And, you can bet nobody talked about best business practices. Reimbursements were so good then that talking about the business of medicine would have seemed nonsensical. But, now things have changed — big time!
Flash forward to 2016. There have been profound changes in almost everything in the practice and business of medicine, especially those brought about by the Internet. Yet, practicing physicians still receive almost no training in the best practices of managing a business, one that provides the administrative and financial scaffolding of our medical practice. Recent changes in the regulatory environment and insurance industry are happening with rapid advances in technology, ones that seem to change on a daily basis. With all the time, training and investment we have made in our practices, many of us still have a hole in our boats. We take on water because we don’t know the best business practices to integrate existing technology and leverage the extraordinary possibilities presented by the Internet into our practices.
The reality is that the practice of medicine has never been easier or more complicated and frustrating than now. Whether your practice is easy and growing or complicated and frustrating depends on how much you want to adopt new ideas and technologies to shore up the business side of your practice.
The answer to my initial question is you have both a medical practice and a medical business. The business is the platform that supports the medical practice. They are not the same thing. You spend most of your time pursuing the practice of medicine. That is what most medical conferences are about and it is what you are trained in and comfortable with. The business of your medical practice is what keeps the overall system healthy with growth and new patients, while continuing to nurture the patients that you have treated in the past.
The study of the Internet and existing technologies has become a passion for me and lead me to publish Medical Marketing Demystified in 2014. Why spend a lot of time and money wondering what works and doesn’t, if I have already tried it and can tell you?
The purpose of this blog is to provide a blueprint or a map to navigate common business problems in the practice of medicine. I’ve been in practice for more than 30 years. For the past 15 years, I have relied on the Internet, almost exclusively, for my patient referrals. Now there are other challenges, like reputation management and compliance issues, that come into play. What used to be “nice to know” is now a “need to know.” Who is going to tell you when the latest change will occur in Google, not to mention its significance to your practice?
My purpose with this blog is to help relieve the discomfort and anxiety of current practitioners by suturing available technology and best business practices to your medical practice, so it can be healthy and grow. I want to share my experience and insights with you and help you take advantage of the incredible opportunities available to help gain market share in your area.
Stay tuned. Next month, I will drill down into reputation management.
Tony Mork, MD, is a practicing endoscopic spinal surgeon and author of Medical Marketing Demystified, a book that teaches physicians how to leverage the Internet to grow their medical practices. Mork also launched the Medical Website Academy, an educational website that highlights how to apply technology solutions to solve business problems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.tonymorkmd.com.