Perils and pleasures of a solo practice

It’s tough being a solo-practitioner.

Sometimes I yearn to have someone right there to ask for a clinical opinion. In the end, am I glad that I started my own practice? You bet! I love being a woman entrepreneur and a doctor.

I was never exposed to business management in medical school or residency, but I love the challenges that come with managing a business.

Before I even started medical school, I always knew that I needed to be my own boss. Although I was a good worker, I had difficulty following orders and always wanted to lead. In grade school, it manifested as “does not listen to instructions.” In high school, I was labeled as “stubborn.” Fortunately, I come from a family who taught me the principles of working hard, so I was still able to become self-disciplined, despite not being a follower. During residency, my superiors recognized that it was best to leave me alone in the job; the task was always completed.

After I finished residency, I worked at two different healthcare systems: Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Manhattan for four years and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn for one and a half years. Without my experiences there, I would never have been able to establish my own practice. I was able to build my knowledge about outpatient medicine, something that wasn’t too much of a focus during my residency training. I was also able to learn the pearls of billing and coding and what it all meant. But still, I struggled with being an employee. Working for a large hospital or joining a large practice felt too traditional.

I started my own medical practice in August 2006, right next door to my former undergrad dormitory at NYU in Greenwich Village. It felt surreal to start a practice with no patients, let alone having to spend more money in the beginning without really knowing if my practice would ever grow or generate a real income. Right away, I decided that there would be very little paper in my office, and I would bill electronically. This has not only saved many trees, but it has allowed me to find documents, results, and consultations so much faster.

When I initially started, I did everything! I scheduled the appointments, answered the phones, and billed insurances. I never had an answering service but made patients aware that if they left a voicemail with an urgent issue, I would be monitoring messages during off hours. Most of my patients have respected this and have not called during the early or late hours unless absolutely necessary.

I also made sure to seek out advice from my predecessors. A mentor from medical school, who has been in practice for over 40 years, told me to make sure I had good doctors who would provide coverage for my practice. That was great advice, as I am able to have personal time, and the call schedule is split evenly and fairly. I also made sure to have coverage doctors who have a similar practice to mine, that is, a fairly younger patient population. This means that we rarely have to go to the hospital to see patients.

One piece of advice I have for anyone who is interested in starting her own practice: invest whatever money you make in the beginning right back into your practice. I did this by upgrading my electronic medical charts. I eventually hired a full-time assistant who now takes care of most of the secretarial and administrative duties. I moved into a space that I was able to make into a serene environment.

It’s a practice I’m proud of – and it’s mine.

Other Resources

Starting a medical practice: one physician's story.

Doctor's discussion forum.

About the Author

Dr. Mandal is a solo-practitioner in New York City.

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

Sign Up For Our Newsletter!

Find us on Facebook!
Find us on Twitter!
Find us on Pinterest!