About a third of physicians across the country are in solo practice according to the NRM Practice Management Survey conducted last spring. Still, the writing is on the wall for going it alone. Most provinces believe the future lies with group practice and they’ve been pushing the profession in.
It’s just good sense to make absolutely sure that new partners have practice philosophies compatible with your own. And to avoid bitter future disputes, it’s also imperative that you and your prospective partner or partners know each other’s professional goals — like how many hours you all plan on working — before teaming up.
If you’re planning on adding just one more doctor to your practice, ask yourself, “Why do I want to do this?” and start planning based on your answers. If reducing overhead is your motivation, make sure the new partner isn’t going to cost more than he or she saves. If, for example you need to substantially increase the size of the office, measure these costs against savings from items like a shared waiting room and splitting the receptionist’s salary. On the other hand, a new partner can really help shoulder the financial burden of installing expensive new equipment, if you foresee big upgrades on the horizon.
If your practice is inundated with patients and you’d like to slow down your pace a touch, adding a young doc to the mix could be the perfect for you. Provided that he or she is suitably competent and that you’re generous when divvying up referrals, this can be a perfect symbiotic pairing. For them, it’s a chance to learn from a seasoned veteran and build up their patient load and income quickly. For you, it’s an opportunity to wind down a bit, perhaps take longer vacations knowing your eager new partner has got you covered, and if you’re feeling a tad world-weary their youthful enthusiasm may prove contagious.
Going from solo practice to a group of three or more doctors is a more serious undertaking. It’s hard not to notice that most provinces are pushing doctors to go in this direction. For instance, Ontario offers incentives for doctors to join rapidly expanding, though sometimes less than popular Family Health Teams. But just because the government wants you to do it don’t mean it is all bad. Having someone to cover for you is perhaps the most compelling reason to expand to a group practice — and it’s also why finding the right person is so tricky. You’re going to want to work with someone whom you can trust with your patients. And you’re going to want to make sure they share your vision or at least have a practice philosophy that’s compatible with your own. But if you do a good job assembling a team of like-minded physicians, the practice will still run like a well-oiled machine when you decide to take that deserved vacation.
One tough call that you’ll have to make should you decide to expand your practice is — what kind of doctor do you want to work with. If you’re an FP and you have the opportunity to add a specialist like a dermatologist to your practice you have to weigh the pros and cons. Yes, this means a great number of your referrals can stay within the practice walls — something your patients will indubitably appreciate. Yet at the same time both the generalists and the specialists might find themselves in a pickle when they need someone to cover for them.