Best Practice Solution: The mobile medical office without walls

February 10, 2012

The author presents his model for using remote locations without having one dedicated office. Find out how this saved him on his biggest expenses.

Key Points

Then the winds of change began to blow, and reimbursements started drying up. The waiting room grew empty as competition increased, and patients were asked to go to providers within a "preferred network." I woke up from my dream and realized that I had to look at new ways to sustain and expand my practice while controlling my ever-increasing costs.

Let me share with you my personal journey from the stationary office model into what I call a "mobile office without walls."

Here is how I solved the problem of reducing my practice's expenses in each of these areas while still delivering high-quality medical care in multiple locations.

COST OF OFFICE SPACE

To make myself more accessible to more patients, I had to be open to having a presence in multiple-and sometimes remote-locations. I began by seeking out other reputable physicians who shared both my practice philosophy and my desire to reduce empty office time. The types of practices I focused on were those in which the physician spent a significant amount of time out of the office, whether in the hospital or in surgery. The local drug company representatives were an invaluable resource for this information.

The ideal fit occurred when the practice's downtime matched my need to be in that location. This reality meant that I had to be open to seeing patients on one or more Saturdays each month, when the office was empty and when patient demand for my services was high. Just as airlines and hotels seek to minimize empty seats or vacant rooms, doctors' offices can look for ways to optimize their space utilization, thereby diluting their fixed overhead costs.

Another key point in choice of office was based on the old saying about the importance of "location, location, location." This criterion proved to be critical in my decision of where to practice, because I wanted to be where I could provide easiest access for patients while capturing the largest number of referrals.

Ideal locations sometimes are cost-prohibitive for a solo physician, especially for one who is not at a location full-time. I worked out a space-sharing agreement with an ideally situated, compatible physician's office, where I pay on a prorated basis for the time I am actually in that office.

Once I realized that this model worked well for me, I went out to what I thought would be other ideal locations and contracted to work in those spaces, thereby expanding my practice to four locations. My presence benefits the hosts' practices through patient goodwill and overhead cost reduction, fostering a "win-win" situation. Patients also appreciate not having to drive into the "big city."

I had to learn to leave my ego at the door of each practice, because none of these spaces could be claimed as my own. I cannot emphasize how important it is to choose both the location and practice association wisely, because associates can be affected by each others' reputations.