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Book Review: 31 1/2 Essentials for Running Your Medical Practice

Book: Dr. John Guiliana and Dr. Hal Ornstein, with Mark Terry (2011). 31 1/2 Essentials for Running Your Medical Practice. Phoenix, MD. Greenbranch Publishing, LLC.  ISBN: 978-0-9827055-1-3.

Reviewer: Richard T. Hawk, MHA, CFAAMA, Diplomate; retired USAF Major, MSC; 2nd year doctoral student (Regent University); Director, San Antonio Military Health System Consult, Appointing, Referral Management Contact Center, San Antonio, TX.

Guiliana and Ornstein’s book, 31 1/2 Essentials for Running Your Medical Practice is a clever attempt to cover the myriad of topics professionals might face in setting up a private practice. From designing a mission statement, to the location of your practice, to business plans, corporate structure, staffing and budget, this book covers a bunch.

The authors, both practicing physicians, with experience in healthcare and practice management, declare that their passion is teaching and helping others. To that end, these 31 1/2 essentials have been tested and proven to work, not only in their own practices, but also in the practices of the other medical professionals that have adopted them. Lest you ponder the “I’ve already got my practice running, why do I need this book?” question, consider that sometimes, as the author’s state, “You have to recreate yourself in order to get better.”

The book’s forward states that this book will “improve your spirits, improve the morale of your office, show you how to generate new patients, how to develop services that your existing patients need and, ultimately, to increase your bottom line.” Even if just a couple of those things happen, specific to your own circumstances, this 146 page book is worth your time and expense to check it out.

As the title intimates, there are 31 essential topics discussed, with the 1/2 coming as a summation chapter that provides a handy action plan. Unlike other books within this genre, the chapters are not affinity grouped. Each chapter stands alone.

Here are a few of the chapters that captured my attention.

Subspecialties & Your Mission Statement. This is a fitting beginning point, as every organization needs to know what business they are in. Much more than the obligatory mandate to write a mission statement, the authors help the reader to come to grips with defining “who you are, who your patients are and what do your patients want.”

Time Management. This is a great chapter, which speaks volumes by its subtitle, “Get off the gerbil wheel and control your life and practice.” The authors offer suggestions how to own your time.  Examples include one master calendar for all staff and activities at the office, so the connections are easily understood. Block out times for like-events, whether they be admin functions or clinical time or procedures. Efficiencies are gained by affinity grouping these items into parts of your day or week. Additionally, the art of delegation is a key to a successful practice. Do only the items you must do, and to the degree you have staff that can handle other tasks, spread the responsibility. Don’t’ be a micromanager.

Non-medical Malpractice Insurance Coverage. So you’re new to owning a small business and you didn’t know how many different kinds of insurances you needed to consider. Indeed, a reliable insurance professional can educate you on your option. It’s a given that you will have medical malpractice, but did you know there are eight other key insurances you must consider. These included health insurance for your employees and general liability insurance for things like slip-and-falls accidents. Other insurance includes property coverage that covers things like fire and weather damage. Perhaps workman’s compensation that covers employees getting hurt on the job. These are all very important decisions and should be handled in concert with your insurance professional and other key members of your leadership team.

Other essentials include developing a budget, hiring staff and marketing your practice. Writing the office manual, determining what a paper-less office looks like and controlling overhead are a few more of the 31 topics this wonderful book offers. The book closes out with an action plan that highlights one key item from each of the chapter, compiled in an action checklist for easy use in setting up your practice, or in improving the practice you already own.

Drawing on nearly 50 years of combined experience running successful practices, the ideas Guiliana and Ornstein have brought together will improve the work you do. I highly recommend this book for every healthcare professional. Read it once, cover to cover, than place it in your office for easy access and reference.