What you need to know about buying and selling a practice

October 9, 2009

Buying a local competitor's practice at the right price is often a cost-effective way to grow your existing practice.

Key Points

These tough economic times may give you pause if you're in the market to buy or sell a practice. But buying or selling at the right price at the right time could be the best investment you will ever make.

This article is designed to help you properly prepare before entering into any practice transaction-buying or selling-no matter where you are on the career arc.

Of course, professional guidance eventually will be helpful to you, and we point out along the way which experts are best suited to your needs.

Physicians interested in new practices frequently ask me "Which is better: starting a practice of my own, buying a practice, or joining an existing group practice?"

The answer: It depends on the unique situation of the physician asking the question. It can be far easier to be successful faster by buying a practice than either starting from scratch or becoming an employee in a group. It may also be the only way to enter some markets.

Buying a local competitor's practice at the right price is often a cost-effective way to grow your existing practice. The more competition there is, the more an existing practice's transferable cash flow is generally worth. In underserved areas-where all practices in your specialty are swamped with patients, and appointment waiting times are measured in weeks or months instead of days-your practice will have far less value.

Many physicians purchase or buy-in to a practice only to find that it's not what they expected. By asking all the pertinent questions up-front, before you buy the practice, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation, from buying the wrong practice to arguing over space-sharing or group situations (see "Governance and decision-making in a group practice").

Some or all of the following questions will be applicable to you when you buy a solo practice, buy into a partnership or corporation, or even buy into a space-sharing arrangement. The answers can prepare you to work out some of the necessary details with the seller.