Three key questions to ask yourself first

Maybe your practice is growing by leaps and bounds and you simply can’t keep up with the demand from new patients. Perhaps you’re looking to expand into other service offerings or open another location. Or maybe you’re becoming burned out and frustrated by administrative demands that are cutting into your time with patients. Whatever the reason, it may be time to consider adding another provider to your practice. Here are some questions to ask yourself first.

1. Are you spending enough time with your patients?

On average, doctors work 51 hours a week and see 20 patients a day, according to a 2018 survey by the Physicians Foundation. Almost a quarter of their time is taken up with non-clinical paperwork. The number of patients to whom a doctor can provide high quality care is affected by many factors, but the ability to delegate tasks is a big one.

Tasks that take away time from patient care can impact not only patient satisfaction but also doctors’ job satisfaction. In the 2019 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, 29 percent of doctors said the most rewarding part of their job was relationships with patients and receiving gratitude from patients they help.

Consider adding another provider if you feel like you aren’t spending enough time with patients, or if new patients have a long wait for an appointment.

Consider whether hiring another provider to share the workload would allow you to spend more time with your patients. You may see fewer patients per day, but another clinician would also be seeing patients, contributing to the practice’s bottom line.

Another sign that you may need to add another provider is if patients have to wait a long time for an appointment. A 2017 survey found that the wait time for new patients to get an appointment with a doctor has reached an all-time high of 24 days. And the longer patients have to wait, the more likely they are to look for another doctor who can see them sooner, to skip preventive appointments, and/or go to an urgent care center instead.

2. Do you want to offer new services?

Many medical practices find themselves developing a specialty, either organically or strategically. For instance, eye care practices may naturally branch out into cosmetic procedures and products such as lash-lengthening serums and Botox based on patients’ interest. Other practices may decide to brand themselves as a Dry Eye Center of Excellence, based on need and potential profits.

If you’re looking to expand your services, add a provider with a complementary skill set who can add new offerings to the practice.

The decision of whether to hire another provider may be determined  by your practice’s goal of expanding your services. Does it make sense to hire an optometrist who specializes in dry eye? Or does your practice want to beef up its LASIK business, in which case hiring a new ophthalmologist trained in the latest refractive surgery techniques may be a smart move? If your practice is located in a community with a large number of older patients, adding another cataract surgeon will give you more bang for your buck than adding an optometrist, according to Ocular Surgery News.

Surgeons “can generate far more revenue per patient visit, per square foot of office space and per support staff member compared with optometrists. As a result, adding an M.D. covers more fixed overhead and gives the rest of the providers a pay raise. This is especially so if the M.D. chosen is a plastics or retinal subspecialist, in which case fees are higher and support resources are comparatively modest.”

The bottom line: if you’re looking to expand your services, hire someone with a complementary skill set who can add new offerings to the practice and your existing patients, as well as attracting new ones.

If you’re looking to expand your services, hire someone with a complementary skill set who can add new offerings to the practice and your existing patients, as well as attracting new ones. Click To Tweet

3. What type of provider should you add?

While we touched on this above, let’s dive a little deeper. As Ocular Surgery News mentioned, this question is especially important for small or solo practices. For instance, in a solo doctor practice with a surgery center, hiring a second M.D. and surgeon is wise, since it provides a succession plan and allows you to better hedge against the loss of an existing M.D., whether due to disability, retirement, or other reasons.   

The size of your practice, whether you’re nearing retirement, and profits all factor into the decision of whether to hire an M.D. or a non-physician provider.

In other cases, it makes more sense to add a non-physician provider (NPP), such as a physician assistant or nurse practitioner. “These providers can handle many of the routine issues at a much lower salary than a physician, allowing the doctors to focus on more complex (and higher-reimbursement) issues,” according to Physicians Practice.

Hiring NPPs pays off: More than 50 percent of office-based solo practices, single-specialty groups, and multi-specialty groups who use NPs and PAs said these clinicians helped increase their profitability, according to the 2019 Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

Hiring and marketing your new doctor

Once you’ve decided what type of provider your practice needs, the recruitment, interview, and hiring process should be just as thorough, if not more, than for any other employee. “Bringing on an associate is a significant decision not unlike hiring an employee, but with higher stakes,” stated Cohen & Co. CPA firm in the article, “Bring It On: Adding an Associate or Partner to Your Physician Practice,” which discusses practical business and financial issues to consider during this process.

For more on this topic, download our free eBook, Top Secrets to Hiring, Training, & Retaining an All-Star Medical Staff.

Once you’ve made your decision, welcome your new colleague into the practice and help spread the word in the community. Strategic marketing will not only help the new doctor attract patients, but will also promote your practice, said health care consultant Judy Capko in Physicians Practice. “The smart practice will prepare a marketing plan and budget for the finances essential to help Dr. Newbie create a desirable presence. This includes offering community lectures, personal meetings with potential referring sources, and actively being involved in the medical community.”

For more advice on how to grow your practice, get in touch with us today!