When Nicole Ottens, D.O., joined Mattoon, Ill.’s Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in July 2010, setting up her practice was “incredibly easy,” she recalls. As an emergency room physician employed by the 128-bed rural hospital, she didn’t have to make many decisions.
The hospital’s recruiter and human resources department processed the paperwork for securing her credentials. She didn’t have to market her services, because sooner or later people use the ER. And because she joined a department already staffed with nurses, she just became one of the team.
Ottens, who will soon be dual boarded in emergency and family medicine, was delighted with the process and even happier with her choice of employers. “All I want to do is to provide quality care to my patients,” she says. “This is the perfect job and the perfect way to do that.”
Perhaps you’re looking for the same streamlined experience. You want to sail through the formalities of launching a practice so you can just take care of patients. But establishing your practice is as important as anything you’ll do in medicine. It usually takes time, patience and attention to detail to make the smooth transition from training to your first job or from your first job to the next. To launch yourself as a skilled practitioner open for business, you’ll have to focus like a laser on key tasks: putting your credentials in order, marketing your name, staffing your office and equipping it too.
Are you in this alone? If you’re flying solo, you’ll have to take care of every aspect—unless, of course, you’ve already tapped a business manager. It’s the nature of being a lone wolf. But if you’re destined to join a group or hospital staff, you’ll likely have lots of guidelines, to-do lists and helping hands.
Organizations are usually quick to help physicians navigate a practice setup. Depending on the size, you’ll have plenty of assistance for mastering the terrain.
As Dorrie LeForce, director of operations for the Dallas-based HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN), the 500-physician Baylor Health Care System-affiliated group, notes of their extensive soup-to-nuts assistance they give new hires: “We’re the legs and arms to support them in everything they need to open their doors.”
Credentials first on to-do list
You can’t treat patients unless you have proper credentials. It’s that simple. The first order of business in setting up your practice will be to get licensed by the state, affiliated with area hospitals and approved by Medicare, Medicaid and the major payers your employer wants to bill for your services.
Some fundamental items—such as NPI (National Provider Identifier) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) numbers—you’ve likely already presented as part of your application. If not, you’ll need to apply for them before you can bill and prescribe drugs. Likewise if you’re staying in the same state in which you trained, you already have your medical license. But if you’re moving to a new area, getting it will be a priority.
Once you have those basics, you can complete the paperwork for your group’s major payers and professional liability insurance. In terms of malpractice, you’ll likely have the same carrier and coverage as your colleagues in your specialty, but you’ll still have to apply separately. Educate yourself about the coverage limits, how any suit might be settled, and what happens with the tail.
Chances are very good that the group or hospital you’re joining will help you navigate the paper chase. Start dates are usually contractually contingent on having your ducks in a row so you can see and bill patients on day one. Most organizations have an office or function to handle the details and keep the process moving forward.
So what’s your responsibility?
Topics: Job Search Basics, Practice Success