THE LAST WORD

Keeping Your Practice Going When You Can't

 

A physician battling illness has the added worry of who will care for his patients.

Fam Pract Manag. 2017 May-June;24(3):40.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

I am a 70-year-old family physician who had no plans of retiring. Perhaps it's because I'm in solo practice and love it. I have plenty of free time (I only work half time as it is). I've always felt that my medical school admission was a gift I had to pay forward as long as possible. And my rural town is experiencing a severe doctor shortage, so who would fill the void? When my patients would ask me when I was going to retire, I would tell them, facetiously, “When I can't remember your name or diagnosis.”

Then I got cancer.

I was shocked to get my diagnosis. (See “How a Doctor Acting as His Primary Care Physician, With a Little Luck, Tracked Down His Own Cancer,” FPM, May/June 2017.) In 40 years, I hadn't missed more than a week of work from illness. I was in unchartered territory, not knowing what my treatment would be, how long it would last, or whether I would physically and mentally be able to work. Three things I knew for sure: I needed help, I wouldn't trust my patients to anyone I didn't know, and I wanted doctors.

My rural Northern California community has an aging medical workforce. Most of us came here in the 1970s when we were fresh out of training and cared more about lifestyle than money. Curiously, not many came after us, and we all grew old together. Several of my colleagues in primary care have retired, while others now work as hospitalists out of town and have relaxed schedules. So I sent off emails to my colleagues Buz and Richard: “Can we talk?”

Both were willing to help, essentially providing coverage every other week for three to four mornings. In addition, Dalia, my office manager and only employee, and I decided to pare down the practice and see only patients with acute and chronic care needs, eliminating a lot of the medicolegal work we do.

Both Buz and Richard, it turns out, are covered under my malpractice policy as locums. We agreed on an hourly wage based on what another doctor in the area has paid for a similar service, and I am hopeful that billings will cover overhead. A young doctor in our community has expressed interest in working in our office just to see how an independent practice is run, and a resident in a nearby

About the Author

Dr. Brown is a solo family physician living in Mendocino, Calif., and a long-time contributor to Family Practice Management. His “Practice Diary” ran in FPM from 1999 to 2005.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

Editor's note: Read more of Dr. Brown's story in “How a Doctor Acting as His Primary Care Physician, With a Little Luck, Tracked Down His Own Cancer,” FPM, May/June 2017, and “The Key to Getting Through Chemo,” FPM, July/August 2017.

 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of FPM or our publisher, the American Academy of Family Physicians. We encourage you to share your views. Send comments to fpmedit@aafp.org, or add your comments below.

 
 

Copyright © 2017 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact fpmserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions

CME Quiz

MOST RECENT ISSUE


Nov-Dec 2017

Access the latest issue
of FPM journal

Read the Issue


Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free FPM email table of contents and e-newsletter.

Sign Up Now