To the Editor:
I read “14 Alternative Practice Styles” [February 2001, page 33] with interest and wondered where I could get more information about practicing as a “free-range physician.” It seems like you’d need more than a car, laptop and cell phone. How do free-range physicians handle billing and malpractice insurance? How does a call schedule work? How do they promote themselves to the patient community?
You’ll need to submit your own charges and arrange your own malpractice insurance. You could field all of your own telephone calls after hours but refer patients needing immediate care to a local urgent care center, ER or hospitalist. A call group that covers each other’s vacations would allow you some time away. I have known some doctors who use a local “ask-a-nurse” as their first-line call coverage and then take the calls that exceed the ability of the ask-a-nurse service. You might decide to find a partner to go into free-range practice with you.
To build your patient base, you should promote yourself like other physicians in private practice. Consider the phone book, print ads, billboards and radio spots. Word-of-mouth and physician/nurse referrals will remain important sources of new patients. Long-term relationships with facilities such as nursing homes will also generate significant patient volume.