Incorporating Alternative Providers Into Your Practice

Last time, I covered including complementary care providers into your clinic.  These providers included: physical therapists, massage therapists, and other providers within the medical community, who can offer additional services to your patients.  This week I will cover incorporating alternative care providers into your clinic, which may be more of a challenge.

Incorporating Alternative Providers Into Your Practice

By definition, alternative care providers offer care that is different from that which a medical doctor provides.  Often, alternative care providers have a different philosophy and treatment goal than a medical doctor has to offer.  While this may initially be viewed a threat to the medical director of the clinic, you should view this as an opportunity for expanding the scope and treatment options for your patients.  If you include alternative providers into your clinic in the proper manner, you can increase your patient base by providing medical care for their patients when it is required.

Incorporating Alternative Providers Into Your Practice

Alternative healthcare providers cover a wide range of providers with varying degrees of education and regulatory oversight.  I’m only going to cover the providers who have some sort of licensing requirements or registration requirements.

Incorporating Alternative Providers Into Your Practice

Acupuncturists are licensed or certified in all 50 states, so you can be assured that any acupuncturist that you include in your clinic will at least meet some minimum standard of proficiency.  Acupuncture treatment is designed to promote energy flow throughout the body, thus creating balance and health.  It has its place in the healing arts, and the trick is to determine if the patient will benefit from acupuncture treatment.

Incorporating Alternative Providers Into Your Practice

Chiropractors work under the theory that all health problems are caused by a lack of proper nervous system communication, and that by manipulating the spinal column they can restore normal nerve function.  Chiropractic treatment can be beneficial for patients that have minor back problems that do not require surgery.

Naturopaths treat health problems through ‘natural’ methods, such as vitamins, exercises, and herbal remedies.  They can get results with their treatment, if the problem is not severe or long standing and can treat patients with drug allergies or sensitivities.

Homeopaths use minute titrations of different substances to try to jump start the body’s response to a particular disease or to initiate a healing response.  They contend that the remedies activate the body’s respond by introducing minute quantities of the substance into the body, similar to a vaccine response.

With all these different theories and treatment options, which sometimes conflict with each other, what is the best way to include these alternative providers into your clinic?  In my experience, the best and easiest way to do it is to sublease office space to an established practitioner who already has a cliental base.  This way you do not have to pay any salary to them and you do not have the liability issues of having employees.  There are some logistics involved with this arrangement; for instance you need to make it clear to everyone (especially patients and their lawyers) that these alternative providers are operating their own businesses, and are not part of your practice.  This can be accomplished through handouts to every patient, by having separate entrances to each office, and having separate business names. 

The advantage of including several different healthcare options in one office, or at least under one roof is the potential for cross referrals.  Every patient of an alternative healthcare provider will require the services of a medical doctor at some point.  The practitioner and patient will have the incentive and convenience of referring to you for this treatment.  You may find that some of your patients would benefit from alternative treatment, also.

Then, too, some patients may be more trouble than they are worth, so if you refer them to an alternative provider within your clinic, they will still get care and they will return to you when they need medical care.  This is better for them and you, if they remain in your office setting, rather than seeing another doctor in another office, where you will probably lose them as a patient entirely.

Including alternative healthcare providers into your clinic can be a challenge, but if it done properly, it can reduce your overhead costs, provide you with a broader referral base, and provide better healthcare for the patient.  The downside is that there may be philosophical differences with these alternative providers that are too great to overcome. This will cause unneeded stress to everyone, and may cause enough friction to cause you to lose patients.

The key is choose the providers who are ethical and willing to recognize the limitations of their profession, and refer the patient to the provider best trained to meet their healthcare needs.  You can offer the best treatment options available to your patients, which will sometimes be an alternative provider.  The patient will recognize that you are a good doctor, with their best interests at heart, and they will in turn tell their friends and family how great you are.  Cross referrals within your clinic, or common office space will benefit everyone involved.

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