Can a Coworking Model and the Shared Economy Help Physicians Overcome the High Costs of Medical Practice?

Updated on October 30, 2019

By Reza Mirali, MD MBA FACS

Educational debt, compounded with the overwhelmingly high costs of starting and running a practice pose seemingly insurmountable barriers to entry for contemporary physicians in attaining an independent practice.

As a generally altruistic and socially conscious group, physicians are woefully ill-prepared during their training to address the business of medicine. Graduating physicians are opting for employed models, hoping to be free from most of the operational burdens of running a practice.  Or so they think. In exchange for steady incomes, these clinicians instead must answer to levels-deep hierarchy of administrators with unrealistic expectations and definitions of what productivity actually means. So, how do we overcome the barriers to independent practice? 

A medical coworking model allows its member physicians to stay independent and benefit from the shared economy. The benefits of membership in a well-structured physician coworking model are financial, operational, and professional, as well as immediate and long-term benefits. 

Immediate benefits 

Financial benefits: The reality remains that physicians are looking at ~ $150K in educational debt, $75k in startup cost, and the first-year office overhead as added debt as there will be little revenue in the first year of practice. A well-designed comprehensive medical (WDCM) coworking model takes the startup cost to near zero in reference to office buildout, medical supplies and basic office furnishing which allows physician members to scale their practices up or down to adjust their overhead. 

Operational benefits: Establishing a practice is a well-worn path and there is no need for every physician has to reinvent the wheel. A WDCM coworking model provides logistical support to member physicians to advise and guide them through this process. This can be of tremendous value and relief to graduating residents and even physicians looking to transition from an employed model to an independent practice.   

Professional benefits: A physician coworking model results in an organically established community of like-minded independent physicians, who interact with each other out of volition and not based on mandatory division/department/corporate rules. The professional desire for growth based on interactions with colleagues is realized without having to be employed. Additionally, there is a readily available source of patient referrals, all based on individual relationships built, not based on governance. 

Long-term benefits 

Financial benefits: The largest long-term financial benefit of a medical coworking model will be overhead savings. This takes the form of savings in staffing, medical supplies, as well as many administrative costs of running a practice. A WDCM coworking model can offer added benefits such as: low cost expansion to other locations, healthcare and other benefits, office liability, marketing, critical technology acquisition, and vendor contracting. 

Operational benefits: The needed administrative skills of running a practice are not those that physicians have been trained to earn nor have they been allowed to exercise and perfect. This is where the power of a well-designed coworking model is complemented by the sharing economy of many to help deliver on a lowered (not non-existent) burden of running a practice- a small business.

Professional benefits: A coworking model allows its members to gain flexibility in their work schedule. This attribute, in the medical profession, has the vital potential to reduce burnout and increase professional satisfaction and morale. The WDCM coworking model acts as an incubator for those that want to grow and expand. It provides flexibility to those that always desired 2-3 days a week schedule but were not able to achieve that in previous roles. Ultimately, the physician coworking model allows a realistic means of achieving retirement gradually and on the physician’s own terms.  

In summation, and to answer the question raised at the outset, medical coworking models can be one of the many innovations needed in helping physicians address the rising challenges of maintaining autonomy and running their practice. A WDCM coworking model is integral to realizing the needed benefits sought in today’s healthcare landscape. The impacts of this model will ultimately help re-establish and elevate its physician member morale and professional satisfaction. A less stressed and downtrodden physician will provide a recognizably better care of their patients, express higher levels of professional satisfaction and have the reserve and defense mechanism to overcome burnout. This is indeed better for the health of all the patients and the entire society at large.

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