How To Start Your Own Practice – 44 percent of doctors work in private practice, but how did they get there? This class is an introduction to business ownership and the basic tools a professional needs to get started. In this episode of AMA Thriving in Private Practice, guest Daniel E. Choi, MD, guides you through some of the essential skills and tools you’ll need starting your own private practice as an entrepreneur.
Vargo: Hello and welcome to AMA Thriving in Private Practice, a 10-part series exploring the unique needs of physicians in private practice settings.
How To Start Your Own Practice
In this series, we’ll discuss how to transition into the world of private practice, efficiency solutions, and other tips to free up time to focus on your patients. I’m your host, Carol Vargo, director of physician practice sustainability at the American Medical Association. Today I am a surgeon. Daniel E. I’m joined by Choi, who is also a board member of Ama’s new private practice physician division. Dr. Cho and I discuss the essential skills you need as an entrepreneur to start your own private practice. Welcome Dr. Choi, how are you today?
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Virgo: Very good. We are very glad to have you. So why not dive right in, starting with our audience? Tell us a little about your internship and how you got into medicine.
Dr. Choi: So I’m a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and my specialty in spine surgery is minimally invasive spine surgery. I did a five-year orthopedic surgery residency and then went on to become a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic spine surgery fellowship at Harvard Med School. And that focused on minimally invasive techniques for spine surgery.
And I’m in private practice in Long Island, New York. I cover two counties, Suffolk County and Nassau County. We have two offices. I started my practice in February 2021 during the covid pandemic. Prior to that, I was a member of a large orthopedic specialty group in private practice for three and a half years before opening my own doors.
Dr. Choi: So the previous group I was with was a big group. He was well organized and practice was going well. There are certainly some differences of opinion on how to conduct or practice marketing. I saw some inefficiencies and thought that maybe I would like to implement my own ideas. I really don’t want to be bossed around by someone who wants to validate my opinion. I wanted to run the show. I think that’s a big driving force at the end of the day, the kind of practice I want my patients to experience from the first phone call to the moment they walk in when they talk to the receptionist, the waiting room, and the medical assistants. Inside I had a vision that I thought was completely unattainable in my previous group. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and start my own practice at that time.
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Vargo: It’s amazing, because I think the vision is consistent with a lot of independent private practices that we know, but we know that there are a lot of challenges when it comes to creating a practice. So, when you decided you wanted to go down this path and first thought about implementing your vision, did you have any fear or hesitation? And if that’s the case, we shouldn’t dive any further.
Dr. Choi: Yes, absolutely. I was definitely nervous about starting something on my own. There is nothing to learn about running a personal practice, which is essentially running a small business. We don’t learn to be young people in medical school or residency, or whatever. That doesn’t really focus your energy and efforts. You are learning about physiology. You are learning about organic chemistry. You’re learning all this science, which you have to learn as a doctor, but we don’t get any formal business training. We learn nothing about human resources, compliance, reading profit and loss statements, writing a business plan to get a loan. None of that, it was all very strange to me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I knew I didn’t know much.
I think I know the principles of learning something new well, right? For doctors, we go through our entire training process mastering the concepts we need to learn and the next surgery or the next chapter we need to learn. And so I dealt with this great unknown. There is no textbook on how to start a private practice, and maybe there is. There are some books. So, some doctors wrote something and one of them was a neurologist friend of mine here in Suffolk County. His name is Dr. Rich Shore and he actually has a book, on Amazon, called
. So I picked it up. I read it cover to cover. I started asking questions, I called a lot of solo and independent physicians and what questions do they ask when starting their own practice or practice and how did they get answers to these questions? So, I tackled it like any other unknown I learned as a doctor to find that information.
How To Start Your Own Private Practice
Vargo: One of your colleagues, Dr. Francavilla said something that resonated with me and you are right: “We are doctors, the smartest people on earth. And yet for some reason people don’t think about how to learn. Run a business” and as a freshman you are challenged and looking for that information. I think the venue echoed that. And that level of peer-to-peer discussion seems really grounded for you. do you agree
Dr. Choi: I agree. But I definitely think there were some early influences in my life that instilled some entrepreneurship in me and inspired me to want to own and start my own business. I remember one of them very well. Among these influences are the parents of a couple of my friends that I can remember well. He owned a business. I used to go to their house growing up and their house was really big and their parents drove really nice cars and had a swimming pool and all these nice things, I remember looking back and asking the parents. , “what do you do?” And typically, they’re entrepreneurs, business owners. I remember because I was staying at their house and the parents… my friends were also entrepreneurs because their parents were right? And those principles have fallen on me implicitly.
I think I’m also growing as an entrepreneur. I remember when I was in high school selling CDs from mix tapes in my backpack, making CD burners at home, or tutoring my classmates for the SAT or whatever. It will generate more income. I think that kind of influence was the foundation for me. I think it’s unfortunate that physicians, from pre-med college, medical school, and residency, go down this straight path. And he really didn’t have the recognition for entrepreneurship and business ownership and what that meant and what his full potential was at this point. Even if they read little or nothing in a book or curriculum, I think it can make a big difference to doctors interested in owning a small business.
Virgo: I agree. I think part of what we’re trying to achieve by talking to you today is fueling an entrepreneurial spirit, if you will, in many doctors, many want to try this, but because of some of the problems we’re running into, they’re afraid. So, let’s talk about the challenges you faced when starting your practice and how you overcame them.
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Dr. Choi: Yes, absolutely. I think going back to what you mentioned about generating that interest, if everybody knew how big it was, everybody would go there, right?
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