It has been getting more difficult for independent doctors to hold their own medical practice in today’s medical environment. In order to fix the problems faced by independent doctors, the right resources and skills are necessary. Among these challenges are handling new standards and regulations and the need to learn and implement new electronic systems. In addition, we’ll also look at some of the solutions – in the form of practice models – that have been tried and tested by many independent doctors.

Rising costs — Independent doctors are most likely going to find that all the items that are necessary for their practice is going to cost more than what was anticipated. Since practices are smaller than hospitals, they are unable to perfectly negotiate the prices of everything they need. Practices also need to spend more money in ensuring that all regulations and standards are being followed accordingly.

Higher expectations from patients — These days, patients are much more concerned about how much they are paying to see their doctors and if their doctors are performing up to their expectations. Considering patients today are much more informed (and knowledgeable); as a result, doctors may find themselves stuck with demanding patients – who are never satisfied with the care they receive (or the amount of time the doctor spend time with them). On their part, doctors feel that they are more ‘disconnected’ from their patients due to the lesser time they have on hand to dedicate to them.

Tiredness and burnout — With everything that they have on their plate to take care of, independent doctors find themselves feeling burned out. It does not help either that the costs of running an independent practice are on the rise; and that reimbursements are declining. With the overload of regulatory paperwork and the burden of managing an independent practice, doctors may end up feeling dissatisfied with their careers.

Practice models to fix the problems

For an independent practice to run smoothly, doctors need to put in more time and money. To ensure that the practice is managed properly, more professional staffs should be hired.

Today, doctors have the choice of lessening the burden on them by considering partnerships and strategies that will help them in maintaining operating and ownership independence and also provide them with financial comfort.

Traditional model — The traditional model is about doctors who own their own practices along with other clinicians. This type of practice operates as an ‘independent entity’ and is about benefitting the doctors and clinicians in a for-profit fashion.

The traditional model ensures that the practice’s tasks and duties are divided to be managed by the shareholders, administrators and clinicians. This model also changes the way patients pay for care, which includes limiting the practice only to direct-pay patients.

Though the traditional model gives complete independence to the practice’s owners, it does not offer ongoing external support resources for the management of the practice. Doctors should ask themselves if their practice has all the required resources and capabilities to flourish independently in the current environment.

Acquisition by or affiliation with a hospital system model

Normally, practices that use the traditional model are interested in being acquired by or affiliated with a hospital system to ease the burden of their financial and operational challenges. However, this model will not be easy for doctors who are used to being independent.

If doctors are interested to be affiliated with a hospital system, they should think of how this affiliation will make them happy and satisfy their professional and personal goals.

Professional partnerships model — The professional partnerships model (Independent Practice Associations) provides a range of benefits to an independent practice. Additionally, the doctor gets to keep his ownership and management autonomy. Getting the practice signed up to professional partnerships will help ease the burden on the practice negotiating leverage for payer and vendor contracting. It will also decrease the regulatory and lobbying efforts.

The professional partnerships model also offers support when it comes to advisory and operational support. This model is perfect for doctors, who want to retain the financial opportunity and independence of their practice while getting help in operational support and taking advantage of what larger organisations can provide in terms of negotiating leverage and economies on a big scale.

All in all, the above practice models are the options doctors could consider – particularly, to assist them overcoming the challenges they face; as they thrive to improve daily efficiency, quality as well as doctor-patient relationship at their practice. MIMS

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