The Private Practice Playbook: How to join, build or sustain a private practice

. 17 MIN READ

AMA STEPS Forward® podcast

The Private Practice Playbook: How to Join, Build, or Sustain a Private Practice

Oct 12, 2022

AMA team members and playbook co-authors Meghan Kwiatkowski, program manager, physician practice sustainability and Taylor Johnson, manager, physician practice development discuss the latest AMA STEPS Forward® resource: The Private Practice Playbook. Download the Private Practice Playbook to learn how to join, build or sustain a private practice.

Speaker

  • Meghan Kwiatkowski, physician practice sustainability, AMA
  • Taylor Johnson, physician practice development, AMA

Host

  • Jennifer Mathews, practice transformation and sustainability, American Medical Association

Listen to the episode on the go on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or anywhere podcasts are available.

Speaker: Hello and welcome to the AMA STEPS Forward® podcast series. We'll hear from health care leaders nationwide about real-world solutions to the challenges that practices are confronting today, solutions that help put the joy back into medicine. AMA STEPS Forward® program is open access and free to all at stepsforward.org.

Mathews: Hello. My name is Jennifer Mathews and I am the communications manager for professional satisfaction and practice sustainability here at the AMA. And joining me on the podcast today are my fellow AMA team members, Meghan Kwiatkowski, program manager for physician practice sustainability and Taylor Johnson, manager of physician practice development. Meghan, Taylor, thank you both for being here with me today.

Johnson: Thanks for having us.

Kwiatkowski: Yeah, thank you very much.

Mathews: As you both know, we are here today to talk about the latest resource in the AMA STEPS Forward® Playbook series, the Private Practice Playbook, which you are two of the co-authors of. I guess let's just jump right in. Why don't you start by telling us how the idea for this playbook first came about?

Kwiatkowski: We've been talking about the concept of a resource like this for a while, probably following the publishing of our qualitative research, which we did in partnership with Mathematica, we published that white paper on high-performing private practices in 2021. And we knew that coming out of that research, we needed to create a place where private practice physicians and their teams could access resources that were specifically designed for them, which we did in a web toolkit. That was our first step and we did that in 2020. But we wanted to do more and we wanted to give private practices a cohesive one-stop shop of a resource. So, we started talking about the idea of a playbook with the STEPS Forward® team. And then Taylor joined our private practice team at the end of last year in September of 2021. And she really took all of those discussions and everything that we had conceptualized and ran with it and brought it to life. And with her experience in the world of private practice and then with our other authors, we were able to pull together some really great existing AMA resources and put together the playbook.

Mathews: Great. And outside the obvious, private practice physicians, who exactly is the playbook designed for?

Johnson: Yeah. So, the playbook, it's really designed for anyone that's interested in private practice. So, physicians who are looking to open a private practice or if they want to enter an existing private practice, even for those medical students, residents and fellows who are curious about the private practice model. And then for those practice managers and health care operations leaders that just want a deeper understanding of how they can make their practice more efficient and ultimately sustainable longer. We really just created this so that the private practice model is an option if someone would like to go into it.

Mathews: Okay. So, what value are you hoping that people reading the playbook take away from it exactly?

Kwiatkowski: So, like I said, we did this qualitative research and one of the messages that we took away that was really just loud and clear for us was we really needed to be able to provide resources for private practice physicians that they can identify right off the bat that they're explicitly for them. They don't have the time in their day, they're providing care, but they're also running a business and they don't have the time to go through a guide or a checklist and determine what pieces if any of them apply to them. So, the resources that we touch on in the playbook may not all specifically or individually have a private practice label on them, but we've aggregated those individual pieces that we know are relevant. And then we've given this playbook, obviously, the private practice label for Private Practice Playbook, and it really gives them—

Mathews: It's a mouthful, right?

Kwiatkowski: It is a mouthful, yeah. Private Practice Playbook.

Mathews: I know. I feel like it's something to say at the beginning of a theater game or something when you're trying to

Kwiatkowski: Right. Exactly. What it does is it gives them a quick and efficient way to look at the necessary pieces of starting or joining a private practice and it helps them to get started on the right foot. So, one, it gives them a very clear starting point, but it also right off the bat, gives them more time back into their day because we've already done the legwork of aggregating these resources and putting them together in the playbook.

Johnson: And just to add to that, Meghan, I think that when we were looking at what to include in here and what would be most valuable to these physicians because, the AMA has so many resources, we really just wanted to introduce these foundational terms and concepts that apply to private practice. So much of the educational material that's in this playbook isn't taught in medical school or even in the advanced health care degrees. So the goal and what we really wanted to get to, was to help physicians understand this information so that they can engage in meaningful conversations with their vendors, with other private practice professionals, their team of advisors because recognizing they are physicians at their core and they really do want to treat patients and private practice does give them the ability to treat patients and provide patient care in the way that they think is the best for their patient population.

But when you're starting a private practice, you also have that other side of the business. So, recognizing that there are only so many hours in a day. We really just wanted to give them that base knowledge so that they know what consultants and what advisors they need and how to talk to them so that they can get to the best information and make the best decisions for their practice and their patients.

Mathews: Building off what you just said a little bit there, Taylor, about being able to individualize the medical care that you provide for your patients, what are some other attractive options to going into private practice versus say, joining an already established large health system or maybe leaning more into an academic setting?

Johnson: So, I think with the private practice model, like I said, they can provide more personalized medical care for their patients, but then they're also not subject to that governance structure of larger health care organizations. So, it's not just designing the treatment plan for their patients, it's really … they can design a workflow that works best for what they specifically do in their clinic. They can identify clinic hours that work best for their patients, recognizing that they have a younger patient population. They're probably still part of the workforce. So, are you going to have earlier hours or later hours or offer more virtual visits to meet the demands of your patient population? And then they can also develop these policies and procedures that make the most sense and they're not just stuck in that mold of what the larger health systems have designed for them.

Mathews: Yeah, definitely. Go ahead, Meghan. Yeah.

Kwiatkowski: I was just going to say and recognizing that the AMA certainly supports physicians in all models of practice, whatever they choose, we just wanted to really ensure that physicians who are looking for that way to set up maybe a little bit of work-life balance, being able to address their personal and their professional desires. I think we just wanted to just highlight that that is still a viable option for physicians in this playbook.

Mathews: Yeah, and so that they can make a comprehensive informed decision, right? Taylor, you mentioned earlier that this isn't necessarily something that's taught in medical school. You're taught how to treat patients and the practice of medicine, but not necessarily the different paths in which you can do that and how you go about doing that. One of the things I really like about the playbook is that it is a lot of information for people that want to dig in deep and really explore all the options, but there's also a lot of great infographics and one-pagers that distill the information into short sound bites for people that, as we know, physicians are super strapped for time and don't necessarily have a spare hour to delve into a large playbook.

But I like that the information is shared in different ways. If you're someone who wants to absolutely look at every single piece of information, it's there and it's specific and it's great, but if you also just want to know where do I start? Show me in three minutes. Those options are part of the playbook as well. Did you guys keep that in mind when you were designing it? Because I think it's a really great way to share the info.

Johnson: Yeah, definitely. And that was our co-author, Dr. Marie Brown, she was great in helping us conceptualize what the end result of this would look like. So, a lot of it is giving them a couple of sentences, really high level, but really valuable information inside the playbook. And then there are links out to more in-depth resources if physicians would like more information on those specific topics without having to dig through all of that extra information in the playbook while they're looking for what they need. So, I thought that, that was really important with this because like you said, they don't have a lot of time.

Mathews: No, they don't. So, there's obviously resources for physicians who are trying to decide either they're recent graduates or they're perhaps unhappy in their current field and want to pivot. But there's also resources in there for physicians that are already working within a private practice setting and maybe want to increase their efficiencies or their reach, et cetera. What are some of the resources in the playbook directed specifically towards private practice physicians that are already working in that area?

Kwiatkowski: Yeah. Like you said, Jen, I mean, we wanted this resource to speak broadly so, to physicians who are starting, but also those who are sustaining, who are in private practice already that really have the foundation set and now they want to grow. So, we talk about topics like revenue streams, working with payers, ways to increase efficiency and workflows, but also things like marketing and using social media, ways to save money, relationships that you can build within the community or professional organizations; things that the physician or the practice team might not necessarily think about right off the bat but the playbook gives them ways to start having those conversations.

Like if they want to talk about developing a marketing plan, thinking about things like do we want to do print? How can we use word of mouth to spread the fact that we're here in the community and providing care? What social media options are available to us? Do we want to use Facebook or Instagram? Do we want to do things like direct mailing because that can be very effective? Do you know little postcards and send them out to members of the community? Again, highlighting that a private practice obviously is a place to provide clinical care, but there is that business aspect of it. So, we really wanted to include information that was relevant and helpful to the private practice physician who is thinking about ways to grow, expand out into the community.

Mathews: I always liken it to, because I have a theater background, they teach you in theater school all the different elements in order to bring to your craft. And then you go out into the world and you haven't been taught anything about the business of theater and how to function within it, or if you want to start your own theater company and what all that entails. So, it's a great way to give someone all the tools they need to succeed in an area that they've already spent so much time investing in becoming really good in their particular field and then still feel like they're lacking certain aspects of how they succeed and what they want to do.

So approximately 50% of physicians are currently working in a private practice setting, which I did not know that particular stat. So, in addition to the Private Practice Playbook, can you tell our listeners about any other initiatives the AMA is currently or in the future planning to help physicians, specifically in private practice?

Johnson: Yeah. we actually, along with this playbook, we launched two other educational platforms, I guess. So, we have the “Thriving in Private Practice” podcast that just launched and so that's a capsule channel. There are ten episodes and we interview subject matter experts in the private practice field on different topic areas that affect private practice. So how do you open your private practice, different contracting and payer models, all things like that are covered in the podcast. And it's really great because the speakers did such a good job and they put so much effort into the information that they brought to these episodes. They're really, really knowledge-rich and definitely worth it to listen to.

And then the second one that we just launched is called the “Private Practice Simple Solutions” series. So that's a rapid cycle learning collaborative, specifically designed for private practice physicians, now recognizing that private practice physicians do not have the luxury of attending live webinars at various points throughout the day. We really wanted to customize this learning collaborative so that it would best fit with the lifestyles of private practice physicians.

So, all of these webinars that contain the educational material, they are recorded and so they can watch them as they need to. All they have to do is register. And then we do have a discussion board that runs for eight weeks with each topic area as the webinars are released, so that the private practice physicians can engage with the subject matter experts that put on these webinars, as well as they can even talk with other private practice physicians who are struggling with the same thing or have maybe succeeded and they want to talk about the different options that work in private practice. So, we thought that that was really important.

And then we do have a third coming up, hopefully at the end of this year, possibly the beginning of next year that is called the “Practice Management Theories.” So, we are doing that in partnership with the USeP program and it provides all of this great business education that they are not given when they are in medical school. It's really a great supplement. They go through introduction to practice management, HR, finances, operations, everything that they really need a deep dive in to open up your own private practice or succeed in private practice without having to go and get another degree after medical school.

Mathews: I mean, most people after spending years and years learning a particular skill doesn't want to then go out and get their MBA. But it feels like that's required a lot of times. I can understand where the frustration builds from. Well, those are great. Go ahead, Meghan, were you going to ask?

Kwiatkowski: No, I was going to say, and the one thing I do want to underscore with all of the things that Taylor just mentioned, the majority of the subject matter experts, so from the podcast, the simple solutions, everything is coming and based off of physician experience, physician feedback. So, we do have some of the content that is, depending on what the topic is, it's not coming specifically from a physician. By and large, these private practice physicians are hearing from their peers when they are listening to the podcast or they're attending a simple solution session. These are guided by the insights of private practice physicians. So, it's really coming from that experienced perspective.

Mathews: I love that. I love the idea of peer-to-peer support and shared knowledge because you can read all sorts of different documents, materials that are written to help you, but there's something super valuable about just getting hands-on advice from a person who is going through it right in that moment and can share the, “Okay, this worked, this didn't. This may for you, this may not.” I love that.

And one thing I wanted to point out that I don't think we've mentioned yet is that all of the resources, the Private Practice Playbook and the others that you guys have mentioned, are all free. Correct? They're all free and open access. It's not limited just to AMA members. Anybody can access any of these resources at any time. They're all available online for everyone. We're trying to get the word out. Our goal here is to share the information with as many people as possible. So, I think sometimes people hear the AMA and they assume that these resources are only for members, and that's not the case. Correct?

Kwiatkowski: Yeah. No, everything is free open access. We really wanted to make sure that, as you said, it's not just members, though of course, we certainly value our members, but we want to make sure that all of our resources, the ones we just mentioned. And then of course, we have other checklists and guides up on our website that are there for private practice physicians and their teams, but everything that we have is currently open access.

Mathews: Great. Well, do you guys have anything else that you wanted to add before we wrap up our time together today?

Johnson: No, I think that's it. Thank you for having us.

Mathews: For all the listeners, please know that we will link to the Private Practice Playbook and the episode description for this podcast ep, and you can also find the Private Practice Playbook and several of the other resources that were mentioned today on our website at stepsforward.org. Thanks so much for listening today. Bye.

Speaker: Thank you for listening to this episode from the AMA’s STEPS Forward® podcast series. AMA’s STEPS Forward® program is open access and free to all at stepsforward.org. STEPS Forward® can help put the joy back into medicine by offering real-world solutions to the challenges that your practice is confronting today. We look forward to you joining us next time on the AMA’s STEPS Forward® podcast series, stepsforward.org.


Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this podcast are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.

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