group practice

From solo surgeon to group practice

When running a private practice, you may be confronted with an important strategic choice: to stay solo or to start a group practice. In this article, we look at the choice from a marketing and business perspective. 

group practice

From solo surgeon to group practice

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

July 6, 2022

Long-term business planning really matters

private practice advice

Where is your practice heading? Are you just running your business on a day-by-day basis, or do you have a plan to build a larger group practice? The best private practice advice you can get is to think strategically.
When I look at the success stories in medicine, I see specialists and surgeons who are willing to put on their business hats from time to time. 

The key element when we help doctors plan their careers in private practice is scale. How big is your ideal practice? There are various options:

  • Solo surgeon, specialist or practitioner: The focus is on your role as the lead doctor and other team members are supporting you in that role. The patient’s attention is guided to you as the thought leader.
  • Practice owner & subcontractors: The focus is on the team and your arrangements with allied health professionals or other surgeons is a subcontractor agreement. In this case, it is extremely important to create clarity about the way you will be working together and positioning your team members. You are the owner and you decide how much exposure you give to your team as you position your brand.
  • Group practice & shareholders: The focus is on the team and your shareholders will expect equal representation on the group profile and in your online content. It will take more democratic negotiations and this is often where group politics can become part of your reality as a practice manager.

Whatever the structure, you don’t want to stick your head in the sand. The story you share online will help you grow your business or it won’t. Let’s unpack some of the scenarios and models in more detail from a digital marketing perspective.

How important is it to show your team on your website?

multidisciplinary clinic

Even if you have not created total clarity in terms of your legal arrangements with team members, it’s good to reflect on how you will present your team to the audience. In other words, do you give each team member a bio and an individual profile, or do you stick to a simple profile? 

Calling yourself a multidisciplinary clinic may be tempting. In medical marketing, it is often a bit of a buzzword and it allows you to offer better customer service and make a margin on other healthcare professionals’ service offerings. A multidisciplinary clinic has one weak spot: the risk of high employee turnover.

What if team members move on? What is the cost of replacing team members? How does it affect your reputation if you suffer from high employee turnover?

The choices you make about showing your team in various degrees will depend on the vision you have for your business. And – this is often the elephant in the room – they will depend on your ability to successfully shape and manage your business so team members want to stay with you for the long run.

The pitfalls of building a group practice

building a team

The typical pitfalls we observe when doctors are building a group practice are: 

  • Ego: As a doctor, you are trained to convey authority. Status often matters. If you are a surgeon, you are expected to lead with a firm hand when you are performing surgery and there is no team for extensive team consultation or democracy. In management, there may be a conflict between those energies because modern team management requires more flexibility.
  • Job market: If the job market is volatile, employees may just look at your clinic as an opportunity to get a job that pays the bills. If your HR processes are unable to identify the intrinsic motivation of a job candidate, chances are you will be used as a platform for professionals to gain experience before they move on to the next step on their career ladder.
  • Lack of strategic vision: If your practice is only a vehicle to serve your own lifestyle purposes, any team member will feel this when the novelty wears off. If the only way to motivate your team is a salary raise or an additional extra-legal benefit, chances are they are going to move on at some stage. If you are able to offer a strategic vision, your team will feel part of a bigger story and motivation will be supported by purpose and inspiration, two strong key drivers for any work situation.

Of course, you want to avoid these pitfalls. Wouldn’t it be great to create a balanced long-term vision that allows you to achieve your goals and keep a good work-life balance?

group practice

Attract more work and work less

practice profitability

Practice profitability is a nice side effect of the work we do here at Digital Practice, whether you work solo or in a group practice. Since 2016, we have been analysing the movements in private healthcare, when patients choose a specialist or a surgeon. 

More and more business volume is defined by your ability to manage your online reputation. We have seen practice owners triple their turnover, and others were able to transform their core services to the exact type of work they preferred. Others were able to leverage their online reputation and build a team so they could spend more time building a business as opposed to consulting or performing surgery.

The choice is yours.

Attracting more work and working less is possible and it ties in with optimising your practice profitability.

The other great side effect of this approach is more choice for you as a doctor in private practice. With higher profits, you are able to shape your practice, and engage in more meaningful partnerships or associations. You are able to allocate part of your time to additional training or research, become part of a medical board or engage in industry activities and projects.

In other words, setting up your digital assets in the most effective way directly affects your level of freedom later down the track.

This is why leading doctors who invest in a solid digital program upfront, achieve their goals faster than others.

How to tackle employee turnover

HR for doctors

Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. Does the following apply to them? 

  • They are well paid.
  • They have their own desk.
  • Their salaries are paid on time.
  • They get the occasional bonus or extra benefit.

That is probably the absolute minimum you can do to keep an employee for a while. How about the following DIY checklist for employee happiness?

  • You know about their kids’ achievements and milestones and ask about them.
  • You treat them as equals and show vulnerability and personability in your day-to-day conversations with them.
  • You occasionally surprise your team members with a surprise for a special occasion such as their birthday.
  • You acknowledge your team members for their attitude, their contribution, their initiative and those moments they go the extra mile to support the business.
  • You always show respect to your team member also in the presence of peers and colleagues, patients and other stakeholders.
  • There is a culture of clarity and consistency at your practice and team members know why you are doing what you are doing. They connect to your passion for your work and want to help you achieve the goals you are aiming for.

Quite often we forget that jobs are transactional until some of these more fluffy aspects come into play. And as a doctor, you may find that these soft skills are potentially in your blind spot and that may be the reason why you have suffered from a high employee turnover.

Building a successful group practice means you set the bar high. You can only present yourself as a group when you have managed to create that clarity from the very first moment you start recruiting.

Let's meet

Get a 360-degree perspective

team marketing

Before you engage in team marketing (or the effort to position yourself as a group practice, a multidisciplinary team or a brand), feel free to get our perspective. We work with medical teams on a daily basis, positioning individual surgeons and groups as a brand. The 360-degree perspective we will cover in your free 1:1 Strategy Session starts with the brand promise you make to your future patients, and flows into the day-to-day choices you make about the way you deliver on that promise.

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