By Dr. Reza Mirali, CEO, Cowork Medical.
In the past, one of the appeals of becoming a doctor was the ability to maintain professional autonomy, with the hopes that this would also offer physicians flexibility and freedom in how they run their medical practices. Unfortunately, today the economic reality is that it will take well over six figures to establish a practice, on top of the average medical school debt accumulated of $150,000 to $200,000, makes creating a profitable traditional private practice a near economic impossibility.
Coworking spaces are not a novelty, and we’ve seen them sprawl nationwide across industries and cities as organizations and technology continue to fundamentally shift how and where we work. Coworking spaces are allowing people flexibility and autonomy and at a significantly reduced cost of running a business. Borrowing from this shared economy model, medical coworking is the disruptive concept needed to revive private practice, making the possibility of self-employment realistic once again by allowing start-up costs to drop from six figures to four, and by offering much needed support to physicians in operations, administration and marketing.
The biggest barrier to entry for a new doctor to start a practice has always been real estate overhead. With a shiny medical degree, but no active patients, doctors are asked to sign multi-year leases, without any promise of immediate or even short term returns on investment. Through my experience as a new physician, it took upwards of two years to establish a solid practice and patient-base, yet during that time I still had student debt and amounting rent and operational costs.
In the coworking model (as offered by Cowork Medical), doctors pay a monthly membership fee allowing them office access, front-desk support, group purchasing discounts and business consulting services. The membership fee gives physicians access to all coworking locations, meaning that a new doctor can have a multi-location practice instantly, giving that doctor the ability to grow a client base quicker and more cost-effectively than ever possible with a traditional model.
For many physicians, business mentorship is critical and the operational support provided by coworking concepts offers immense benefits to physicians entering the business, allowing them to put a stronger focus on their client care rather than dwell on tedious administrative tasks needed to make a business thrive. Doctors are taught to save lives, not how to run a business. Simply giving them an office space to settle in will not address all the vows of establishing and running a practice. Through strategic consulting, members are able to receive immediate access to decades of experience in practice management, learning how to operate and grow a successful practice in addition to strategic marketing tools at a minimal cost.
While coworking is a natural solution in our shared economy, for doctors, it also provides an economic model that offers an increased work-life balance which is otherwise difficult to come across in the medical industry. It has tremendous potential to allow further flexibility with many of the operational and administrative tasks being heavily supported and streamlined through the “parent” company. This flexibility does not only manifest in the physicians’ work-life balance, but also in the facilities and amenities available to members of a medical coworking space.
Members only pay for exam, procedure and consulting rooms when they have patients to see. Rooms are booked in four-hour increments and include reception services, space for clients and use of needed medical supplies. In addition to a negligible start-up cost, physicians in a coworking space enjoy a 30-35 percent reduction in overhead costs including staffing, medical supplies and many administrative costs.
Coworking physicians also enjoy the fruits of marketing efforts from promotional activities like advertising, public relations, open houses and more, provided a much-needed added value for more quickly and effectively scaling a private practice. For Cowork Medical, we envision other needed benefits to our members such as discounts on comprehensive retirement benefits, disability and financial planning, and other benefits at a markedly lower value.
Today less than 45 percent of doctors, and only 18 percent of female physicians are in private practice. The barrier to entry was simply too high. Now with a new model of medical coworking, providing not only office space, but also staffing, administrative and business development support, private practice is once again a viable option for any doctor.