I am excited to announce that The Workers Clinic is opening for business in January!  Patients can schedule appointments by calling (952)247-4210 or completing this form.

When I decided to open my own clinic in June 2020, I knew it would be difficult.  Most doctors are not looking to start a private practice now; for the first time, the majority of physicians caring for patients worked outside of physician-owned medical practices in 2020.  The logistics of owning and managing a clinic are not something that we learn in medical school.  Over and over again, I have heard my fellow physicians say that we need more business classes in our medical school curriculum.  Now that I’ve gone through this process, I wish I’d had those classes all the more.  For my entire career, I have been an employee.  I am used to showing up, seeing patients, and getting paid, with all the work of staffing, scheduling, coding, and billing behind the scenes.  I know what billing code to use, but I had no idea how much they charged for it.  It wasn’t my business and I didn’t bother myself with it.  I didn’t know when the bills weren’t being paid, or if the insurers paid less than they were billed.  Now, my livelihood depends on knowing this.

Private Practice

There are many occupational medicine physicians who are in private practice.  Due to the nature of our field, with consulting services and work for corporations, many occ docs don’t see patients at all, or they combine patient care with those services.  I am lucky to know something about the process from them.  In preparing to open a practice, I also met with several QRCs in town who helped me with conceptualizing my business model.

I worked for an independent clinic group in the past and also have experience as a clinic managing physician, so I have more sense of what happens behind the scenes on the business side.  As managing physician, I was part of the leadership team.  In starting my own practice, I *am* the leadership team.  I drew on my project planning experience gained from serving as an alumni volunteer for Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity to get me through this process.

My practice is what they call a “micro-practice.”  Due to the services that I am offering, I did not need to hire any staff other than an office manager.  I don’t need a medical assistant to room the patient, because I will have only one exam room.  I won’t be performing any in-house testing, so I don’t need a MA to perform that role.  I have worked with excellent MAs, LPNs, and RNs in my career and they have been part of my work family.  A major downside of having a micro-practice is that I will miss the social interaction that comes with seeing them every day.

I’m lucky that I happen to be married to a man with front desk experience – though it was for an accounting office.  He will be working as the clinic office manager.  [It was a short interview!]  My husband and I are excited to start this family business, and like each other enough to work and live together.

The Process

Thankfully there’s this thing called the internet that helped me find the steps to take.  My friend Dr. Shary Vang just opened a new clinic, Evergreen Primary Care in St. Paul and is an inspiration to me that it can be done.  I knew that my first step was to file the paperwork to establish an LLC.  I had done that for Bannister Occupational Medicine Consulting two months prior to the birth of The Workers Clinic.  I also happen to have an accountant who was a groomsman in my wedding who had an empty office to rent to me.  So many things fell into place quickly which made this adventure feel even more “meant to be.”

The next step was finding an electronic health record (EHR) company.  I found a website called Software Advice that helped me narrow down my options; there are EHRs for all kinds of practices, and I needed one that could handle the specific needs of occupational medicine.  I selected AthenaHealth and I have been very happy with it thus far.  Their website has a timeline for starting a practice that became my main guide to the process.   Software Advice also has a useful guide to starting a new practice.

I also met with a healthcare attorney, David Holt, who helped me with the details of the process; there are always contracts to review.  He complimented my “entrepreneurial spirit” and I was able to do many things without his help.  I have the luxury of doing this while I am working as a consultant, and I had the time and wherewithal to do it.  Healthcare attorneys are an important part of the process and can do most of the groundwork for a physician who needs the help.

AthenaHealth assigned me to an onboarding coordinator.  At our weekly meetings we set up all the necessary details, like connecting bank accounts and completing the necessary training.  As the person who wears all the hats, I have to do the training for all the clinic roles.  The best part about Athena is that I get to customize all my templates for notes and forms using ones they have already created.  The autonomy is empowering.

My Team

After obtaining the EHR, I started looking for malpractice insurance.  Allen Bosch from Dyste Williams insurance agency helped me compare my options and get that set up.

And if you want to get paid for seeing patients, you need to connect with the insurers.  The first step to this is to complete a credentialing application.  There is a great resource for the credentialing process with the Minnesota Credentialing Collaborative.  I found out about it through my membership in the Minnesota Medical Association.  We are lucky to have a unified credentialing application in Minnesota to cut down on tedious and repetitive completion of forms.

I could not have done any of this without Jesi Konen from BrandFluential.  She helped me create a brand, learn how to use social media for marketing, and created this website together with Evolve Creative.  Her knowledge of how to start a business has been invaluable.

The finishing touches are now coming together to set up the physical space and open the doors.  Justine Frischmon from Nested has been a great help in designing the look of the space and transforming it from an accounting office to a medical office.

I am excited to be seeing patients again.  I have been able to help people through my consulting business, but I belong in a clinic.  I can’t wait to get back in the saddle (clinic) again!