Becoming a doctor is a lifelong dream for many, but there is such a tremendous amount of work between earning your MD or DO and running your own practice. Doctors who decide to open their own clinics take on the role of entrepreneur, office manager and so much more. The passion has to carry you through endless nights of missed sleep, stress and, of course, a seemingly unending mountain of debt. But the reward is ultimately worth the payoff if you are able to stick to your goals, strategize and plan ahead. If you’re currently in high school, college or thinking about becoming a doctor, this guide has step-by-step guidance on how to get the necessary qualifications to open your own practice.
Complete Your Undergrad
Doctors do not have any specific major requirements for their bachelor’s degrees. Some choose to study English or history while others go a more scientific route in order to better prepare for the rigors of med school. Biology and chemistry are two fantastic majors for an aspiring physician, especially if you want to become a specialist. You should consider what your future application to med school will look like as you decide which undergraduate path is right for you. Make sure that you also take time to volunteer in medical settings and build a well-rounded application. Show them what you are passionate about, what fuels you and ultimately what you aspire to become.
Prepare for the MCAT
Students who wish to get into med school must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Your score will be one of the greatest determining factors in your acceptance. The MCAT test is a standardized exam that evaluates a student’s scientific knowledge, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills and analytical competencies. You can take an MCAT prep course while you’re still in college to begin planning ahead. It’s recommended you take a practice test at least twice to ensure you have the greatest chance of passing with a high score on your actual exam. A good MCAT score is 508 out of the 528 total points on the entire test, which is broken down into four 132-point sections. Anything below 500 is considered undesirable, so you will have to retake the exam if you hope to get into a good graduate program.
Figure Out Your Finances
As you plan to start your doctor training, you’ll need to assess what your finances will be like after you graduate. Becoming a doctor is one of the most expensive career paths a person can choose, so planning ahead is essential to financial stability later on. As a newly minted physician, the bulk of your income will be put toward repaying student loans. This means you won’t automatically be living in the lap of luxury once there’s a title after your name. Explore all your options in-depth, including graduate medical loans from a private lender by clicking here. While federal loans are valuable, they can feel somewhat restricted in terms of their application and quantity. Repayment options through private lenders grant students more flexibility and allow for more financial independence as a working professional.
Complete Your Residency
Once you finish med school, you’ll have to complete your residency before you earn your title. Residency lasts between three to eight years depending on your area of specialization. Someone who aspires to become a specialist will have to not only complete a general residency but also train under their chosen discipline. This will help them go on to earn board certification in their chosen specialty. During this time, you will work directly with patients and be acting as a doctor in practice. This is the time to learn as much as you can from real-world experience as well as your supervisors. Although this can be a turbulent period for some students, residency is the fire that will forge you into a truly confident, capable physician.
Start Developing a Business Plan
Once you are able to practice freely as a doctor, you need to come up with a business plan for your future clinic. Even if you have all the necessary skills to be a successful entrepreneur if you do not have a solid business plan you might stall out before you start.
Do you intend to work independently as the only physician in your practice? Are you comfortable being a part of a group practice instead? This can make it easier to offset some of the operational costs, and you may be able to join a private group practice to avoid startup expenses.
You might find it helpful to work with a business healthcare consultant who can help you align your ambitions with your current abilities. They’ll help you determine what resources you need, how much it will cost and even what avenues you can consider for funding. Aim for at least six-figures in funding to cover equipment, operational costs and employee payroll. You’ll have to hire a nurse or PA, front desk secretary and an accountant to keep your office’s finances in order. Patient insurance information is far too difficult for a doctor to manage on top of their work, so a medical biller and coder will also be an essential part of the team.
Get the Right Equipment
You’ll need a variety of software and tools to run your practice. In addition to technical equipment like exam beds and tables, medical tools and the like, you’ll also need furniture for the office and an Electronic Health Record System (EHR). EHRs ensure that medical records and insurance information for your patients is always handled in compliance with HIPPA.
EHRs also make it easier for you to streamline your care delivery model. Cross-over communication with diagnostics labs, pharmacies, other specialists, and healthcare providers allows you to build a comprehensive treatment for each patient. You should also look into choosing a medical billing software, a medical transcription company and payment processor. These are key services you’ll rely on every day to deliver the best possible care and service to your patients.
Plan Your Financial Documentation
Your business will need to be registered and have its own tax identification number before you can open your doors for business. In addition to registering as a business entity with your state, you will also have to undergo a credentialing process with insurance companies. This is all part of the basic physician’s compliance requirements that keep healthcare regulated and secure for people across the country. You should give yourself at least a year to sort everything out prior to treating patients. In the meantime, you may continue to work elsewhere as you build a client base, gain experience and grow into your identity as a physician.