The harsh realities of business in healthcare
It’s not the best doctor that is guaranteed the best private practice. It’s not the smartest physical therapist that sees the most patients. It’s not the most compassionate dentist that stays in business the longest.
On the contrary, some of our best doctors, physical therapists and dentists don’t have the best practices, see the most patients, or stay in business the longest. I see this in daily practice as I help private practice owners run their businesses, and last Friday I saw it happen to a physician from my birthtown of King City, CA. The headline read, “Harrison to leave family practice,” and the article was a very transparent look into the reasons for his departure: business failure.
“I’ve gotten to do the best job imagined,” Harrison reflected, “I would continue if I could.” He went on to explain the closure is for business reasons, stemming from no one reason in particular, but a collection of bad decisions that hurt the overall business.
Dr. Harrison is a great doctor and a good man. I know this because I know him personally – he delivered my son in the early 90’s and I have seen him off and on over the years. I know that Dr. Harrison is a pillar of his community in the small town of King City, CA, and that his leaving will affect many by severing relationships that have kept a town healthy and brought comfort to those that called him doctor.
It is upsetting that the reasons for his departure are not because he is retiring or moving to a new home. Dr. Harrison is leaving practice because his business failed.
A career spanning multiple decades, providing quality care to a town that needs him – ended abruptly because the numbers didn’t pan out. This can, in part, be chalked up to a healthcare climate that simply doesn’t support the general practitioner such as Dr. Harrison. I’ve blogged about this many times (see posts here and here). The other half of the equation though, is that physicians, dentists and physical therapists must acknowledge that private practice is a business – pure and simple.
I’ve debated this, and some disagree, citing ethical arguments for the separation between the two. They view healthcare as a human need that supersedes business strategy and market forces – healthcare providers should just be able to focus on taking care of patients, not running a business (Heaven forbid a private practice desire to turn a profit…).
I believe the two actually go hand in hand – that the words “healthcare” and “business” can be used in the same sentence, and in a constructive, humanistic way. My best argument for this comes in the examples of successful private practices that honor their responsibility as business owners to earn a profit – only so they can then use part of that profit to help others who are less fortunate. This, if a practice owner so chooses, is powerful proof that business has a place in medicine, in dentistry, and in physical therapy.
And if you still don’t agree, you don’t have to look any further than Dr. Harrison to see proof that successful business is critical to one’s ability to serve others in the healthcare industry.
“There’s a lot of potential and real insolvency in medicine,” Harrison noted, adding that five physicians will soon leave their practices in the Monterey Bay area alone. The problem stems from a nationwide crisis of mixing the need for medical care with the practice of private business, he explained.
My best wishes and luck to Dr. Harrison in his new career, whatever road he takes.
Click here or call (888) 827-5613 for information on a free program dedicated to helping private practices throughout the U.S. strategically adjust to the slowing economy. Free program runs through March 31st, 2009 and is open to practice owners and administrators of any healthcare discipline.
Tannus Quatre PT, MBA is a practice consultant and principal with Vantage Clinical Solutions, Inc., a national healthcare consulting and management firm located on the west coast. Tannus can be reached through the Vantage Clinical Solutions website by clicking here.