Private Practices

To boost doctors’ joy in private practice, try addition by subtraction

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

AMA News Wire

To boost doctors’ joy in private practice, try addition by subtraction

Oct 6, 2023

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Ugh. Not again.

Physicians everywhere face all kinds of speed bumps when they’re just trying to care for patients, but those in private practice often encounter more than others. Besides delivering high-quality physician care, they also have to be administrators, managers and business owners. What they don’t need is to get caught up in unnecessary trainings or clicking around endlessly to submit a laboratory order. 

Keep your practice running

The AMA is fighting to keep private practice a viable option for physicians. We're working to remove unnecessary burdens so physicians can reclaim the time they need to focus on patients. 

Private practice has long been a pillar of the U.S. medical community, due largely to the fact that “you get more control over your own life as a physician—so things like control over the environment you practice in, your own schedule and the way you care for patients,” according to Sea Chen, MD, PhD, physician director of practice sustainability at the AMA.

In some ways, that autonomy can be protective against burnout. Still, physicians in private practice often have to take on a variety of non-clinical responsibilities not found in other settings, such as personnel management, marketing and other elements of business operations, Dr. Chen said during a recent episode of “AMA Update.”

“So all of these nonclinical duties may contribute to burnout,” he said.

Reducing physician burnout is a critical component of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.

Far too many American physicians experience burnout. That's why the AMA develops resources that prioritize well-being and highlight workflow changes so physicians can focus on what matters—patient care.

“Inefficiencies in private practice mirror practice as a whole,” said Dr. Chen, a radiation oncologist. “However, I think with the typical small size of private practice, these inefficiencies can be amplified.”

Little, repetitive tasks—like having to constantly log into the EHR or signing documents that don't legally need a physician’s signature—are often the things that cause the most aggravation.

“And a lot of us will redocument things that are already in the medical record that may not even have to be done,” he noted.

It takes astute clinical judgment as well as a commitment to collaboration and solving challenging problems to succeed in independent settings that are often fluid, and the AMA offers the resources and support physicians need to both start and sustain success in private practice.

Find out more about the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section, which seeks to preserve the freedom, independence and integrity of private practice.

Dr. Chen’s AMA colleagues “have a process, which they call GROSS,” an acronym for getting rid of stupid stuff, “to eliminate or at least reduce those inefficiencies.”

This AMA STEPS Forward® GROSS toolkit shares real-world examples of how organizations have reduced unnecessary burdens.

Meanwhile, the AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions are no-cost, open-access, rapid-learning cycles designed to provide opportunities to implement actionable changes that can quickly increase efficiency in private practices. Each multiweek learning session focuses on one topic area. Busy private practice physicians can access pre-recorded content presented by subject matter experts at a pace and time that works best for them.

Previous sessions have covered topics such as marketing and branding, E/M documentation and coding, physician recruitment and telehealth. All of the sessions in the AMA Private Practice Simple Solutions series are available on demand (registration required).

In addition, the AMA STEPS Forward Private Practice Playbook includes a collection of editable forms—covering telehealth consent, patient health history, patient payment plans and more—that private practices can tailor to their needs.

These forms can be saved in a practice’s EHR, practice-management software or patient portal, Dr. Chen noted, “so there's no need to necessarily reinvent the wheel time and time again.”

AMA Update” is your source for physician-focused news. Hear from physicians and other experts on trending public health concerns, practice issues and more—because who’s doing the talking matters. Catch every episode by subscribing to the AMA’s YouTube channel or listen to all AMA podcasts at