The leaders of practices reliant on referral medicine should try to be as accommodating as possible for all patients, he said. Even if the patient has an issue that the private practitioner then has to send to someone else, a strong practice will get that referral first, Dr. Merati added.
Explore This IssueMay 2014
“In the three academic jobs I’ve had, I had one goal. I wanted everyone in the hospital and everyone in the community to think: throat, Merati,” he said. “I wanted there to be a complete, unbreakable connection between that word and my name and not have people worry about, ‘Does this patient need a certain operation for a certain specific problem?’ I want them to think: This person has a throat problem. Send them to Merati.”
Dr. Setzen said that hiring staffers part-time can be a smart approach because it allows a practice to make the service available to patients at a fraction of the cost of a staff member who sees patients full-time.
Smart hires also help; for example, on a tight budget, your first receptionist could double as the medical assistant who works directly with patients. Then, there’s the all-important position of billing and coding staffer. Don’t scrimp there. “That’s a very critical need,” Dr. Setzen says. “Although the coding responsibility is predominantly and finally with the physician, you do need to work with someone who is a bit of a coding expert.”
Typically, once an entrepreneurial otolaryngologist has decided where the business will operate, how it will be staffed, and what equipment to buy, the rest of the decisions, while important, are a bit easier to manage. Choosing an EHR can be difficult, but it is often a matter of preferences and finding vendors. The situation is similar with malpractice insurance and credentialing with insurance plans. While these can be arduous processes, they tend to be less difficult than, say, connecting with a patient base in a community already served by other otolaryngologists.
Finally, Dr. Setzen likes to note, once the business has begun to operate well, don’t forget to keep planning for the future. “If you’re starting out as a new practitioner, you need to see how you’re developing, how the community is going to accept, how the referring physicians are going to accept you, and how you’re doing with your patients,” he said. “And then, if things are developing very positively, you enhance with another five-year plan.”