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8 Business Considerations for Starting an Independent Practice

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Founding an independent spine practice requires careful thought about your priorities as a surgeon, according to Douglas Won, MD, who gave a presentation titled "Starting an Independent Spine Practice" at the 12th Annual Spine, Orthopedic and Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference + The Future of Spine on June 13, 2014 in Chicago.

"You have to make decisions when you get out and start practicing independently," said Dr. Won. "Where do you want to live? How do you want to operate? You want to avoid having to start all over again."

As a solo practitioner, you must think about business aspects of medicine that were previously the purview of others, according to Dr. Won. Here are eight business items Dr. Won recommends considering when starting a new spine practice.

1. Compensation. "How will you divide overhead? Who gets paid what? If you don't consider carefully, there may be a physician 'divorce.' Being in a group, it's important to create a win-win situation and good opportunities for all partners involved," said Dr. Won.

2. Licensing and credentialing. This may take between two and six months, so plan accordingly.

3.  Insurance. Will you be in-network? Will you be out-of-network? Will you accept plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

4. Health IT. For a starting practice, this can be extremely expensive, according to Dr. Won.

5. Billing and collections. "Who will fight for your money? Make sure you have insurance verification and pre-certification in place," said Dr. Won.

6. Staffing. "The most important thing about developing an independent practice is staff and your management team. Physicians must select the right staff and must determine what the practice culture is going to be. Will you be the Ritz-Carlton or a motel? Medicine, more and more, is becoming a service industry," said Dr. Won.

7. Marketing. You must have a website, and consider the value of local ads in print, on billboards and over the airwaves. Get on social media, and Google yourself to determine your current online reputation. Be proactive.

8. Ancillary services. Do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if these are appropriate for your practice, whatever they might be.

Ultimately, the keys to being successful in independent practice include knowing your market, building your brand, controlling your message and marketing it, according to Dr. Won. 

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