As a nurse practitioner (NP), your patient-centric approach to care is a welcome change for patients who are looking for a different healthcare option that doesn’t include long wait times and rushed visits. As an independent nurse practitioner (NP), you are in a unique position to meet those patient desires, enjoy professional autonomy, and achieve business success through private practice entrepreneurship.
However, there are some common business challenges that you should be aware of before taking the plunge. By planning for these potential challenges, and being prepared to face them head-on, you will be that much better positioned for success as a clinical practice entrepreneur.
Understanding Your Local Scope of Practice
As an independent nurse practitioner, it is vitally important to understand and be familiar with your state scope of practice as well as the scope of practice for other states in which you may want to practice. Full-practice authority states give full autonomy to nurse practitioners in the evaluation, diagnosis, and management of patient health issues in their clinical practice.
Other states have varying limitations on NP authority when providing healthcare services. The regulatory environment is complex and varies by state; reviewing with legal consultants or experienced colleagues is recommended. It is also important to keep abreast of changes, as more states recognize the value of NPs in healthcare and increase practice authority.
Among the problems entrepreneurs face, obtaining financing for a business venture can be one of the most daunting. Depending on your situation and location, potential sources of capital may include private investors, banks, credit unions or other lenders, and grant providers. A comprehensive business plan (more on that below) will help define what types of funding will be necessary to cover start-up costs and ongoing expenses and provide a cash flow analysis. A trusted financial representative from a reputable lending institution can guide you through the process and help you avoid issues commonly faced by entrepreneurs.
Finding a Brick-and-Mortar Location
For any small business owner offering a product or service, finding a reliable brick and mortar location can be one of the more difficult challenges, especially if you are an NP in the preliminary stages of establishing a successful practice. Finding a suitable space for a clinic that aligns with your budget, location preferences, and practice goals can take time. Other considerations include ensuring that the space is large enough to accommodate staff, equipment, and a growing patient panel.
Additionally, appropriate zoning for medical practices is another consideration. At this stage of launching your independent practice, a seasoned real estate professional, especially one well-versed in commercial and healthcare related real estate, can provide valuable guidance and save you from wasting time on properties that will not meet your needs.
Choosing a Nurse Practitioner Collaborating Physician
Depending on your state, a collaborating physician may be a necessary part of your team due to state laws governing independent NP practices. Your professional colleagues will likely prove to be the most valuable resources to help refer you to doctors who may be the right fit for your independent practice. Organizations like Guardian Medical Direction or Collaborating Docs also can help facilitate the relationship.
Having clearly defined criteria, such as specific skills and specialties like mental health or geriatrics, will streamline the vetting process. Less tangible, but equally important, considerations include a good rapport and shared practice philosophy. Other considerations include defining responsibilities and guidelines for processes, such as chart review, to ensure you both enter the relationship with mutual understanding and expectations. It is advisable to seek legal or expert counsel before entering into any binding agreement.
Selecting Your Technology Vendors
As an experienced healthcare provider, you already know the importance of selecting the right technology vendors partner for medical practices. Finding an efficient EHR (electronic health record) system, cloud storage solutions, billing solution, and telecommunication applications can make all the difference in time management and maintaining a healthy bottom line.
A reputable vendor will understand and support your unique practice goals and needs, provide outstanding customer service, and offer ongoing guidance to help ensure your smooth transition to independent practice and future success.
Credentialing, Enrollment, and Working with Payors
Credentialing is a complex process with many steps and documentation requirements. Planning ahead by creating a credentialing file with easy access to vital information such as CVs, licensure forms, and educational background will save time, prevent errors, and streamline the process. Be sure that you can access your Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (CAQH) account to manage this process.
Other steps, such as double-checking forms prior to submission and following up regularly with the credentialing body can help too. Since your NP entrepreneur business’ financial success depends on credentialing, set aside dedicated time to complete the process.
The contracting process is often viewed as part of credentialing, but it is a separate step to insurance reimbursement. After becoming credentialed, you will also have to contract with the payer in order to bill claims and receive reimbursement. Having trusted advisors to review contracts and fee schedules helps alleviate stress and give NPs confidence while moving through the process.
Preparing for Common Challenges in Advance with Your NP Business Plan
With so many considerations as a prospective nurse practitioner business owner, you may wonder, “What are the biggest challenges for a new entrepreneur?” and “How can I make the process easier?” The answer is to develop a comprehensive NP business plan. By mapping out your business goals and objectives and detailing exactly how you intend to achieve them, you will have greater clarity on everything from budgeting to social media marketing initiatives.
Your business plan will identify risks and provide solutions, detail products and services, outline hiring policies, and develop networking strategies for building relationships with hospitals or other clinics. A well-thought-out business plan will save you both time and money – and help you grow your business.
NP Advantage Can Help Start and Grow Your Business
With preparation – and patience – your dreams of becoming a nurse practitioner entrepreneur can become a reality. Our consultants help NPs with challenges in entrepreneurship by proactively troubleshooting issues at every step of the journey from credentialing to annual planning and everything in between. Wherever you are on your own path, let us know how we can help.