Great news: your practice is thriving! Bad news: you’re turning away new patients. Having too much business is certainly a good problem to have, but it can prompt a lot of questions in the mind of a solo practitioner — mostly around transitioning from solo to group practice, and whether or not it’s a transition you’d like to make. In this blog post, Valant discusses the advantages of “going group,” questions you should ask yourself to determine if a group practice would be the best fit for you, and initial steps for setting it all up.
But first – what is a group practice? A group practice is any practice that involves two or more practitioners who all provide medical care within the same facility. When considering making the transition to a group practice, there is no one-size-fits-all. Your group practice can be a single specialty or multiple specialties. You can start small, medium, or large — whatever fits your needs.
A Look Ahead …
Transitioning from Solo to Group Practice in Behavioral Health | Step-by-Step Guide
- Write Group Practice Business Plan
- Ensure You Have the Right Technology Infrastructure
- Determine Who You Need to Hire
- Hire Other Providers & Staff
Advantages of Group Practice Ownership
Like most decisions having to do with your practice, your decision to transition from a solo practice to a group practice requires some careful consideration. Below highlights a number of the advantages of “going group”:
Increased Patient Intake Capacity – By adding practitioners to your practice, you have the ability to provide care for a larger group of patients. Increasing your intake capacity not only acts as an opportunity for increased revenue but also enables you to help a larger number of individuals make changes to support their mental health. Increased capacity can also shorten the time-to-appointment, which is an important metric payors look at and can help you negotiate better reimbursement rates.
Expanded Specialties – Adding practitioners to your practice who have different areas of specialties allows you to expand your practice’s variety of care, and serve a broader range of conditions.
More Flexible Scheduling – Creating a group practice provides an increase of operating hours and hours that are more flexible. It will allow for additional time with your patients, enabling you to provide the best care possible while knowing you are being supported by your fellow practitioners.
More Free Time – Adding more physicians to your practice relieves the stress of running your practice alone. You can, for example:
- Take more time off for your own mental health, continued education, and more.
- Explore new opportunities as a business, such as community outreach.
- Delegate day-to-day operational tasks.
Increased Revenue Opportunity – To continue providing behavioral services at your practice, you must think of it as a business as well. Transitioning from solo to group practice enables you to take on a larger number of patients, as well as increase your office hours — both factors that lead to increased revenue if you manage operational costs effectively. In fact, by transitioning from solo to group, you also have the opportunity to decrease overhead costs by consolidating administrative and management functions and responsibilities.
Questions to Consider Before Transitioning from Solo to Group Practice
While there are quite a few advantages to making the transition to a group practice, it is important to ask yourself why a group practice is a better option than your solo practice. If you answer “yes” to the following questions, it may be time to consider a group practice:
- Are you turning away new patients because you are at capacity?
- Has your solo practice stopped growing?
- Are you feeling overwhelmed by your current workload?
Another critical question to ask yourself is, “Are you ready?” Transitioning from a solo to group practice initially will take work and dedication; however, there are many advantages as outlined above.
The following are a few questions to help determine if you’re ready to grow your practice:
Is there a better alternative to moving to a group practice?
Before you make that decision, it is important to consider other alternatives. You have already asked yourself why it might be time to transition, but you may need to take a closer look at alternative options.
For example, as mentioned earlier you may be considering transitioning to a group practice because you’re having to turn new patients away. An alternative may be to find administrative support to handle scheduling, billing, or daily operations, which will allow you to focus on your patients. Implementing an effective EHR system, for example, is one such way to increase your operational efficiency.
Keep in mind this alternative is only a viable option if you need to manage your daily workload. If you would like to expand the specialties offered at your practice and see a broader range of patients, transitioning to a group practice may be right for you. Make sure to research alternatives to a group practice and whether or not they align with the direction you want to go.
Do I have a scalable system in place?
Does your current practice have a system in place that can handle expansion? You will need to be organized, have your paperwork up to date, and have methods that can be easily duplicated before you consider bringing another practitioner on board. Organized and streamlined systems are the key to a smooth and successful transition.
Am I prepared to devote more time to operations?
As a solo practitioner, you understand just how much work needs to be put into running your solo practice as a business. As the owner of a group practice, however, you take on additional roles and responsibilities. Bringing on other psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, or other behavioral health specialists, requires you to act as a manager in addition to a clinician and practice owner, for example. Especially in the beginning, group practice owners often face the choice between reducing their clinical hours to devote more time to building the business or working longer days altogether.
With this growth, you may also need to find a larger office space and implement new systems, practices, and policies to accommodate a larger group of employees. Understanding these additional responsibilities beforehand sets you up for success in the long run.
Are there other professionals in my network I can lean on for advice?
Many other professionals in your network either have made the transition from solo to a group practice or are also considering the transition. Be sure to reach out to your network for support and advice, especially while still in the consideration phase of this process. It’s a big decision, and no one understands it as well as someone who has also been in this position.
What laws apply to group practices in my state?
Before starting a group practice, you will want to consult with a legal expert regarding the state laws of starting a group practice. You can ask your network for advice, but it will be best to hire registered professionals — including both an attorney and an accountant — to ensure you are aware of all laws and regulations.
Transitioning from Solo to Group Practice in Behavioral Health | Step-by-Step Guide
You know the advantages and you’ve found your “why” – so what’s next? Once you’ve made the decision to “go group”, taking the first steps toward transitioning from solo to group can be a little overwhelming. Valant is here to help.
The exact “how” will vary from practice to practice, but here are a few basic steps to get you started:
1. Write a Group Practice Business Plan
Writing a business plan for your group practice is a crucial first step in starting your group practice. You will need to consider how to structure your practice — mainly, what type of relationships you want to have with the practitioners in your practice. One such question regarding the relationship between you and your in-practice colleagues: would you like to go it alone, or bring on partners to share in the responsibilities of owning a group practice? This decision should not be made lightly and requires a tight alignment on shared values and vision, should you proceed down the path of partnership.
Developing a thorough business plan ensures you’ve considered and addressed all of the questions surrounding group practice ownership. As an initial step in writing a group practice business plan, it may be a good idea to review the business plan you created for your solo practice as a starting point. Alternatively, you can download our free private practice business plan template, which guides you through the process of developing a new business plan for your behavioral health practice.
2. Ensure You Have the Right Technology Infrastructure
You may already be using a basic EHR or note-taking software, which has been sufficient for your solo practice up until this point. However, when scaling up to a group practice, many in similar positions find themselves needing a more robust behavioral health EHR.
Consider adopting an integrated EHR software that will give you useful business data which will, in turn, enable you to run a more profitable practice. You may want to begin automating the measurement of patient outcomes or look for features to improve your clinical or administrative efficiencies. If bringing on a prescriber, you may need more robust prescribing and clinical documentation features. You’ll also want to evaluate whether or not you intend to provide telehealth services or if integrated features like a patient portal, integrated credit card processing, or eSignature will be beneficial in your new business model.
3. Determine Who You Need to Hire
For a thorough business plan, you need to decide whom to hire. Are independent contractors or employees a better fit for your group practice? There is no right or wrong answer, but it’s important to do your research to identify which would be the best choice for you.
You will also need to consider what kind of clinician(s) you should hire. Will your group practice be a specialty group or multidisciplinary? You can make this decision based on the gaps that exist in the services you are currently offering and the direction you want your practice to go.
4. Hire Other Providers and Staff
After determining who you would like to hire, it is time to start recruiting clinicians for your practice. Our steps to hiring for your behavioral health practice are as follows:
- Assess your need
- Promote the position
- Determine which applicant is the right fit
- Develop a competitive job offer
Oftentimes, group practice owners hire clinicians from within their own network, so assessing the availability of your professional connections (especially those who share similar values and vision) may be a great place to start. Further details and recommendations can be found in our blog post, Hiring for Your Behavioral Health Practice.
Valant: The Best EHR for Group Mental Health Practices
Congratulations on your transition from solo to group practice! To discover how Valant can improve the operational efficiency of your group behavioral health clinic, request a free demo of our EHR today by clicking below.
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