Being a successful doctor isn’t hard, but it also takes effort. And when I say it’s not hard, I mean that it’s easier than what we all went through to become a doctor (testing, rotations, testing, long nights, and more testing). That being said, we aren’t necessarily blessed with the ability to become successful nor are we even taught how to become successful. I’ve collated a few key pointers that my mentors have recommended throughout the years.
The Three A’s
The fundamentals of building your reputation are the three A’s: Affability, Availability, and Ability. No matter how stressed out we are with our lives, practices, and patients, we have to be nice. Remember, we are a service industry. With quality performance measures and ratings, affability is even more critical. Word of mouth still drives our referrals, so we have to present ourselves accordingly. In order to generate business, we have to be available. People do not like to wait, and if they do have to wait several weeks in order to see a doctor, they might as well see someone else. This translates to same-day emergency walk-ins, or same week appointments. The only way you can capture reimbursement revenue is to see the patient AND treat them well. Make sure that the referring doctor is kept in the loop regarding the treatment. Lastly, you have to know what you’re doing. This is the “ability”. Keep in touch with the latest changes and innovations in your field, especially if you are a clinic-based physician. Patients are savvy and are capable of discovering the newest fads, whether or not they are based on science. Treat people well, get your patients into the clinic promptly, and know what you’re doing. That’s it. You don’t have to accomplish all of them the second you open up shop, but strive to improve throughout your career.
Hustle and Work Hard
Money doesn’t grow on trees. Your insurance claims aren’t going to mail themselves. Likewise, physician reimbursements have become so disgustingly low that we no longer are able to hang your shingles and watch the money roll in. Work on the three A’s. If you are in a private group setting, find ways to build your referral network. Meet other doctors and make it known that you deliver good care. If you are a university-based physician, continue to do good work. You have to make it known in the medical and pharmaceutical community that you are a thought leader in your field. Carve out a niche for yourself. That is how you develop your alternative revenue streams through lectureships and invited speaker roles.
If you are in an HMO setting, you are screwed. Okay, I’m joking (almost). Your income level is capped and even though you might receive a productivity bonus, the formulas tend to be subjective (because the administration profits from your hard work). The only practical approach is to work hard and take care of your patients. Meet your RVU requirements and get the hell out of the clinic/hospital when you finish your work. Don’t spend unnecessary time in the office when you could be home playing with your kids.
Write down a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Figure out how each one plays a role in your work life. Make it known (subtly) at work what your strengths are. Figure out what you can do to turn your weaknesses into strengths or at least improve your skills in the process.
Think about making a one, five, and even ten year plan. It’s good to set some goals. Do you want to be a multi-millionaire? Can it actually be done given your salary and expenses? Do you want to retire early? Do you want to be the next Dr. Oz?
What other strategies have you used to become successful?