Starting or growing a private practice? Don’t forget the playbook

Len Strazewski , Contributing News Writer

The clock is ticking, and the team needs a big play to succeed. It’s up to you to pull a winning move from your playbook.

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. 

It’s not a football game; it’s the day-to-day management of a busy private practice where many decisions are not based on lessons from medical school, but on business management practices that most physicians have never studied. 

That’s where the “AMA STEPS Forward® Private Practice Playbook” (PDF) comes into the game. It is based on qualitative research conducted last year on physician interest in private practice and the management needs for operating a private practice.  

Playbook co-authors Taylor Johnson, manager of physician practice development, and Meghan Kwiatkowski, program manager for physician practice sustainability—both of the AMA—discussed the private practice playbook during a recent episode of the “AMA STEPS Forward® Podcast.” 

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One of the takeaways from the research that the AMA published last year (PDF) “was that we really need to provide resources to private practice physicians that they can identify are explicitly for them,” Kwiatkowski said. “They don’t have the time to go through a guide or a checklist.” 

Johnson added that “the playbook is designed for anyone interested in private practice,” including: 

  • Physicians aspiring to open a private practice or enter an established practice.  
  • Practice managers. 
  • Operations leaders. 

“The text is also designed to give physicians the base knowledge to evaluate what additional knowledge and resources they need to make the best decisions for their practice and their patients,” Johnson said. 

The AMA research indicated that about half of physicians are participating in private practices and that the model is attractive for doctors interested in independence and control over how they treat their patients. 

Many physicians are attracted to the private practice model so they can provide more personalized medical care for their patients without being subject to the governance structure of larger health care organizations, Johnson said.

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Physicians in private practices have the ability to identify workflows that work best for what they do in the clinic and work hours that best suit the patient population, recognizing the needs of their patient age groups. That could mean earlier, later or more virtual hours, and customized policies and procedures. 

The playbook also provides guidance for physicians who are interested in establishing a better work-life balance by being able to address their personal needs, Kwiatkowski said.  

Growth is also important for physicians in private practice, and few physicians have formal training in sales and marketing. The playbook includes resources for physicians already committed to private practice who want to improve their efficiency, grow their practice and learn more about business issues such as revenue streams, collaborating with payers, social media marketing and ways to build relationships in your community. 

“The playbook gives them ways to start having those conversations,” Kwiatkowski said, including evaluation of media options ranging from traditional print advertising and direct mail to communication online. 

To learn more, check out “The AMA Thriving in Private Practice” podcast, which highlights the experience of private practice physicians who know your pain points—like workflow snags and payer audits—and can help you navigate these issues and more.  

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.