The future of private practice

As healthcare continues to evolve, private practices must change with it. 

James Leavitt, MD, director of clinical innovation for Gastro Health, spoke with Becker's to discuss what the future holds for private practice.  

Note: This response has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's on the horizon for private practice?

Dr. James Leavitt: I think you're seeing much more consumer orientation. So just like when people go to a restaurant, they're going to the internet to see your ratings and to see the reviews. So if you want to be successful, you need to be much more attuned to the social implications of what's going on in healthcare. I think you're going to have to have a social media presence. You're going to have to have search engine optimization. You're going to have to have great reviews on Google. Patients are going to search medical terms and stuff and they need to be able to find you from organic searches. So I think orientation toward patient engagement is going to be different. It's not just what's happening at the office, but what's going to attract them is continued care outside of when they're in the office. Patients don't necessarily understand the quality of the care, but they do understand the quality of the experience. I think you need to give them a great experience beside great care. As far as what's on the horizon, our orientation toward the patient has to be different. I think in the old days, maybe there was sort of a feeling that the patient was there for you, but you have to understand, you are there for the patient.

Secondly, I think for practices, especially in a more urban or suburban area, you're going to see continued consolidation. Unless you have a very niche type practice, I believe that being larger is going to be better for a lot of reasons. It's harder and harder for a solo practitioner or very small groups to function just because of the complexity of healthcare and the business of healthcare, at least in suburban or urban areas. In rural areas, if you're the only game in town or if I'm the only gastroenterologist in town for 100 miles, consolidation probably doesn't make that much difference. I think you're going to see continued consolidation for a variety of reasons, but if you want to be able to provide the types of services that patients are going to demand, you're going to have to get larger. Also, the IT infrastructure is going to be needed in the future for data analytics and for understanding large data. Stuff like that is really going to require some expertise and size to be able to even amortize the costs of doing all this over a larger group. 

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