Top 5 Traits of a Successful Physician Owner

SuccessfulOwning a successful urgent care business hinges on several things that range between patient traffic, location, and reimbursement rates.  However, according to owners of successful centers, one of the most important pieces of the success puzzle is the physician owner themselves.  The Ambulatory M&A Advisor reviews the top five traits of a physician owner that desires to reach for success.

5) Hard Worker

“I think that you must work hard and have the ability to work hard and work long hours.  If it’s your center, that is your baby, and you need to be there as much as you can.   You need  to work with the patients as much as you can.  There is a saying, “A farmer’s best fertilizer is his own two feet.” So, especially when starting off, you need to make certain that every patient, when they leave there, is an ambassador for you,”  Bruce Irwin, MD, CEO of American Family Care says.

Irwin adds that a clinic is going to grow by word of mouth, not how much that is spent on advertising.

“It’s not how many little league baseball games you go to.  It’s how well that patient perceives the treatment that they have been given that day.

They will tell friends and a doctor may say “I don’t get any complaints.”  That is meaningless.  People don’t complain if they get something mediocre.  You want to make certain that people get exceptional care.  They need to walk out of there thinking that is the best healthcare experience they have ever had; then it will grow.”

4)  Training Skills

Marcus Hampers, MD, MBA, owner of ClearChoice Urgent Care explains that leadership and organization are key traits to possess when it comes to training the staff at your clinic to perform at optimal levels, making your center more efficient.  Hampers believes that a physician owner should train their staff to take the role they have well beyond their initial title.

Hampers says that this all comes into play via cross training staff and making them efficient at performing tasks outside of their usual boundaries.

“For example, an X-ray technician is not going to have 12 hours worth of X-rays every day…teach them how to become a medical assistant,” Hampers says.

Hampers says if this type of leadership is performed correctly, the staff will embrace the method, and placing staff members in rotating positions will increase efficiency; therefore, increasing the success of the center.

According to Jagannath Surpre, MD, owner of Children’s Urgent Care, the front desk is also an areas where a physician owner should show off their training abilities.  Surpre says training in this area is important because it is the face of any clinic or any area.

“It is very important that the front desk person is trained to have a good attitude, smiling face.  You want to train them to have a positive impression.  You want a person who can communicate a positive image of the facility,” Surpre says.

Irwin adds this advice to any owners embracing their training abilities.

“You say:  Every person who walks in here and every person that calls you has a problem.  It’s our job to not create another problem. It’s our job to solve patient’s problems.  That’s very important,” Irwin says.

3)  Involved in the Community

Irwin says that staying active within community involvement is important for the new physician owner.

“One, it is really cheap, and two, it gets your name out there.  The most important thing that you can ever hope for in an urgent care business, is that when people get sick or hurt, you are the first name they think of.  No one chooses to be injured or ill; it happened, and you want to be the first place they think of.  In community involvement you do create that.  Yes, sponsor the little league teams, get a board put up on the fence of the basketball court; get involved,” Irwin says.

Surpre says it is also very important to get involved with the community within the office as well.  For example, offering a sports physical before school sports teams start up is very beneficial.

“For example, in our area, there is a nearby high school and those kids do come for the sports physical.  That is good marketing, but you also want to get involved in their activities and donate some money to community institutions.  Involvement is very important,” Surpre says.

2)  Financially Aware

Surpre says that the recent times present substantial financial changes for urgent care, and new owners must be financially conscious.

“Insurance companies in the last three years have put the burden on patients more than the insurance companies so that anybody who walks in has a large amount of deductible and co-pay.  That means that the owner wants to make sure that insurance is checked and they have collected the appropriate amount of co-pay and deductibles.  That is very important in order for an urgent care to survive, because once a patient leaves, it is very hard to go back and collect the money from them,” Surpre says.

Irwin says that aside from watching the money coming in, a financially aware owner must value resources.

“Urgent care centers are a nickel and dime business.  We don’t have CAT Scanners and MRIs.  You have to watch every penny.  You need to be conservative with medical supplies.  You need to use them only as appropriate and cannot be wasteful,” Irwin says.

He adds that ways to stay on top of supply finances include ordering as large quantities as possible in order to get economies of scale discounts.  You are going to learn to negotiate.  You have got to watch your expenses, you have got to watch your medical supplies, you have got to watch your staffing levels.  All of that counts.

“This is a business where our margins are getting squeezed.  Reimbursement is frozen or decreasing, but the rest of our expenses keep right on going on; people want raises, light bills go up, rent goes up.  If you are going to succeed you have got to remember it is a nickel and dime business and you have got to be as efficient as possible,” he says.

1)  Respectful of Time

“You have to value the patient’s time.  The majority of people that go to an urgent care facility have at least one trait in common.  They are people who value their time.  They are not elderly people who retired, have a bag full of medicine and the joy of their life is sitting in the doctor’s office and chatting with other patients,” Irwin says.

“Just as important, the staff needs to understand that they need to value each other’s time.  They need to understand that they are a team and they have got to work together.  The doctor needs to understand that they are the captain of the team and that their staff is going to take their lead from them.”

Irwin says that the leadership a physician owner displays in an office  will reflect highly on how a center is run.

“When [staff] come to the consultation room, and they tell you, you’ve got two patients and you say, ‘I’ll be there in a minute.’ Then they come back and say you have still got two patients and again, you say, ‘I’ll be there in a minute’.  Guess what they quit doing; they quit asking you, and say that the doctor will come out when they are ready, so they might as well take it easy,” Irwin warns that this could be the culture that one could create by not being respectful of time in general.

“The most important thing for a successful urgent care center is to develop a patient centered, positive culture.  The key is patient centered.  Those people have a choice.  Most of us in residency or med school, tended to be working with indigent populations.  They are grateful to see you; but when you are running an urgent care center, you had better be grateful to see them.”

If you have an interest in learning more about the subject matter covered in this article, the M&A process or desire to discuss your current situation, please contact Blayne Rush, Investment Banker at 469-385-7792 or

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