Back in the early and mid 90’s physician clients considered selling their independent practices to hospitals or merging with larger practice groups. Some individual and small group practitioners were fearful of what effect “managed care” would have on their business and selling out seemed to be the right answer. We helped our clients review contracts, implement incentive payments, and simply helped them retain a good buy-out. Since that time, I have also consulted with many physicians who left employment with a hospital or a larger group practice to establish an independent practice of their own once again. The life of a physician, as it turned out, just wasn’t greener on the other side of the fence. Often, in business, a motivating factor for making a change is the fear of something, which ultimately drives us to make a decision or moves us in a particular direction. Sometimes the motivating factor is simply the fear of the unknown.
Today physicians are faced with more unknowns and complexity. Regulatory compliance, declining and uncertain reimbursement, restrictions on ancillary medical services, the possibility of mandated electronic records are just some ingredients that come to the top of the list during casual conversations. Add to the list the fact that it is becoming more difficult to recruit young physicians to independent practices and then stir in some economic uncertainty and a batch of hospitals looking to retain or build their market share and you have a recipe brewing for a fear caused movement once again.
While this time it may seem different, at the end of the day I believe that we will find many similarities. Reactionary decisions, rather than disciplined strategic planning, will be the cause for a future supply of unsatisfied physicians. If you find yourself asking questions like, should I sell? Or, if you are being approached by a hospital to consider a sale, then I would strongly suggest that you stop, drop and roll.
- Stop – Before you go too far or any further and take some time to step back and reflect on what is important to you. Why are you where you are today? Work through a personal assessment with an independent business consultant or coach. Understand that selling your practice will not solve all your problems. In fact, it just may introduce some new ones.
- Drop – Rid yourself of the notion that you have no choice, but to sell. Today there are many independent physicians and physician groups, both small and large, that are not only surviving, but thriving! Work with a healthcare practice management consultant that can help you identify areas of your practice that needs improvement and increase your profitability. If the end result is to ultimately sell to the hospital, your increased profitability will put you in a better position to receive a higher purchase price.
- Roll – Ultimately you have to come to a decision and be the best you can be as a physician whether working in a hospital environment or as an independent business owner. Don’t let fear drive your decisions. Instead, retain a “you can do it” positive attitude. Assess your personal and business goals regularly. And, become part of the solution to putting out the “Healthcare Reform” fire.
The decisions we make today will have consequences long into the future. So, if you are considering changes to the way in which you work, the longer your viewpoint the better – often the short-term financial consequences that are being presented today are not nearly as good or as bad as what we may think. In his book, Time to Sell?, Randy Bauman quotes an anonymous physician that said, “I always have to remind myself that it’s never as good as it seems on the best days and never as bad as it seems on the worst days. That’s how I keep my perspective.”
To assist you in keeping your perspective and to identify the areas of your practice that may be causing you to consider a change, use the following questions that were adopted from Randy Bauman’s book – Time to Sell?:
(Note that no e-mails or personal information is being requested on the forms. You can simply review the questions or if you choose to submit your answers, I will be using the data to gain additional information and perspectives on what physicians are encountering)
Over the next several months we will be addressing additional issues here with the goal of simply – helping doctors mind their own business!