A Layoff Leads to Independence
This may seem like the worst time to launch a practice, but, in some ways, Samantha J. Hauff, MD, had no choice. Dr. Hauff was laid off from a small otolaryngology practice in San Diego at which she had been employed since early 2019. She had considered opening her own practice in the past but felt she needed to save more capital to put toward starting her own business. When the pandemic lockdown forced the practice to temporarily close, its owners could no longer afford Dr. Hauff’s position, she said. Leaving the area wasn’t an option because her husband is a military physician stationed in San Diego. Dr. Hauff also didn’t want her insurance credentials to expire. Suddenly, this seemed like the moment to make a bold move.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2020
Dr. Hauff went from losing her job on April 3 to opening her own practice on July 27. “I did everything on a shoestring budget and essentially by myself,” she said.
The most important step was finding a commercial space, because she needed an address for insurance contracting. Luckily, she found a landlord willing to negotiate quickly and secured a site within a few weeks of looking.
“I basically tried to start it all on a very small, five-figure budget. I don’t think it has to be as expensive as one would think. You can use pre-owned equipment and keep personnel costs down initially by doing more yourself,” she said.
Dr. Hauff has since hired a medical assistant who helps with administrative work but chose to forgo paying for an insurance contracting consultant. “Some people pay thousands upfront for insurance contracting. It isn’t that complicated; you can do it on your own if you’re willing to put in the time,” she said.
With help from the Scripps Mercy Physician Partners, Dr. Hauff created a business plan. To be profitable, she needed 10 patients in the first month of opening and needs to add 10 patients per month every month thereafter until she reaches full capacity. At the time of this writing, she’s expecting to see 20 patients in her first month. Although Dr. Hauff faces pandemic-related challenges like securing enough personal protective equipment and ensuring social distancing in the clinic, she’s glad she didn’t let the crisis deter her dreams.
“It’s a big project, but you can break it down into a thousand small steps and get through them one by one,” she said. “I think that, even though I won’t make much money in my first year, over the long term it will be a set-up that will make me happy. Having control over my own schedule and managing the day-to-day operations is the way I’ve always wanted to run my practice.”