With the healthcare marketplace in a state of flux, practice management is rapidly crystalizing into one of the most important aspects of any medical practice. Whether our practices are brand new or have an established patient base of several decades, we have to keep in mind that we are also owners or employees of a business, which at times may require very different—and often opposing—demands than our responsibilities towards treating patients. As physicians in training, many of us romanticized the practice of medicine and focused on its role as our avocation in addition to our vocation. But what does it mean to be the CEO or even to work for “a business”? Does it mean learning how to crunch numbers, cut wasteful spending, and scrutinize the flow of money in and out of the business? Or is it more about how we brand ourselves, from internal and external marketing, to the staff members we hire?
These are all essential questions to consider, whether based in private practice, a university, or hospital and a practice owner, partner, or associate. Truth be told, our agendas as practicing physicians are often so dense that we simply don't have the time and attention that each item deserves from us. Moreover, there is no set path to success, since the needs of each practice are different. Nevertheless, despite short-term financial and medical goals seeming to be at odds, the two should merge toward a consistent long term goal: enhancing the lives of our patients. We know how to do this from the medical/aesthetic standpoint. We spend years in training learning how to select treatment regimens and perform procedures that address a patient's unique needs—we start by memorizing facts and carrying around cheat sheets until it becomes second nature. On the other hand, newly minted physicians are thrown into the business side without any pocket guides or experience. We attend practice management meetings, speak with colleagues, hire consultants, and read journals like this one. But ideally, business decisions should come down to improving our ability to help our patients at the same time as our practice.
This edition of Modern Aesthetics explores the many nuances of practice management and offers pearls on issues ranging from hiring and working with a business manager to strategies to prevent theft and tips on staff management, and more. As you read these articles, you may detect a common theme regarding the notion of practice success and what it means. Specifically, one of the implicit messages emerging from these articles is that, while we should all strive to become better leaders, nurturing the values of leadership among those employed at our practices is equally important. No matter how we decide to split our time, recognizing that we cannot be in all places at once is the first step in facilitating the collaborative spirit that's essential to building a successful practice by any standard. One of the draws of a career in medicine versus law or finance is the implicit “team” approach—doctors and ancillary staff, the medical team, and the patient are all supposed to be working toward the same goal. Trusting our team and learning to delegate isn't easy but can reap emotional, physical, and financial rewards.
Contributing both to the joy and hardship of running your own or thriving in someone else's practice is not knowing exactly how things are going to turn out. At some point we all learn to take shots on things we're not entirely sure about and making mistakes is not only part of the process but also integral to finding success. The journey is undoubtedly full of ups and downs, but if we surround ourselves with the right people we greatly increase our chances to achieve our goals and strike the right balance medically and financially.