By Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief
MAY 31, 2013 – If you are one of the thousands of physicians, emergency room doctors or recent medical school graduates currently considering starting up a direct primary care or concierge medicine practice selling exceptional service, time or home visits, the first thing you need to seriously consider is not your start-up budget, not the location and not the hours you will be working. The first thing you must consider is the services you will be selling and the business model you want to use. What’s the old adage, ‘plan your work – then work your plan.’ Patients, start-up capital, leased space and even employees will follow an confident leader with a plan.
Physicians today considering entering this niche marketplace must understand that doing good work by caring for the patient isn’t the whole job. Part of ‘getting there’ (the job you dream of), is that things like the unique services you incorporate into your physician-patient contract actually matter — even when you don’t think they will. My favorite story to write is from the physician who transitioned in the past two or three years and says ‘I wish I had done this years ago.’ Thus, if you put the dream before the work, you’d never get in front.
So in putting legs to this concept, make sure you understand the services you plan on offering from your patients and local community before making financial business and emotional decisions on everything else. Remember, your major investment will obviously be in the purchase of the leased office space itself, it usually is in over 60% of the concierge medicine and direct primary care clinics nationally, according to The Concierge Medicine Research Collective, 2013. However the type of services you will be offering and selling will determine the type of office you are going to need. What we’ve learned from countless interviews with physicians over the years is that one of the first things doctors do when they start a concierge medicine or direct primary care practice is reduce the amount of leased office space they use and the amount of employees they have. Most clinics average between 1-2 employees according to Concierge Medicine Today. So, research which types of office spaces that are most used for selling the services you will be basing your new medical practice on. This will serve to narrow down the list of equipment and operational components to something that is much more manageable for you and future staff.
Next, what do you want to offer that’s something completely unique and new for your patients? Such as a coffee or beverage bar in your lobby area with a flat screen cable tv. Do they even need a place to sit down and take some time rest – afterall, they’re probably seeing you because they need a short time-out. Just because this is a so-called concierge medicine or direct primary care operation does not mean you have to forget adding value for patients. Renewal rates at concierge medical clinics nationwide are declining because physicians are over-promising and under delivering services to their patients. What strategies are you going to implement to help differentiate you from the rest of the competition.
Another issue you will need to consider is the volume of patients you are going to be striving for. Most concierge medicine clinics see an average of 5 to 10 patients per day, according to The Concierge Medicine Research Collective, 2013. This will affect how many employees you are going to need inside the practice to assist with administrative support, sales, blood pressure checks, etc., and this in turn will affect the actual space you are going to need in the front office itself. If it is too small, you may lose sales and valuable patients; too large and you waste valuable investment capital.
Last, consider how you will incorporate technology, cell phone visits, SMS text messaging, appointment reminders and local are home visits into your practice timescales. When will you rollout home visits? How soon will you implement credit card statements? Between acquiring the basic operational technology for your new startup practice and the time it takes to acquire a new patient can become sizeable investments in this new venture.
In closing, concierge medicine and direct primary care is all about the patient — offering something of value with incredible price transparency and affordability. The more planning you place on your services now before you begin, the greater your success will be in the very near future.
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED A MENTOR? Need Help? Check Out Out INNOVATOR’S PANEL.
We hope this article will help those who are looking to start your own concierge medicine practice or direct primary care clinic in your local area. If you have any questions about the article, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below or email us your thoughts, comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 770-455-1650.