If you’re an independent medical practitioner, you may have recently heard about the concept of medical coworking.
But what, exactly, does that mean?
Or, more importantly, is it right for your practice?
We’ve put together a guide to help you answer that question.
1. A specific kind of coworking
Coworking is a method of office working where you, as an independent entrepreneur or small business, rent space in a workplace along with other entrepreneurs and small businesses. You share spaces and resources — things like the kitchen, printer, rent, and utilities. You get the benefits of having a professional space without needing to front all the costs yourself. Coworking has helped many musicians, chefs, lawyers, and entrepreneurs keep costs low while building great businesses. So, why can’t it do the same for you?
Medical coworking is the same concept applied to medical practices. Independent medical practitioners share space, but not their core business. Where a single physician practice would require things like a waiting room, front desk reception, office cleaning, equipment and furniture, a multi-physician coworking practice can save on those by distributing common expenses across practitioners.
2. A way for you to focus on your patients
Medical coworking means that all the nitty-gritty work of running an office is already done for you. If you find a great space, such as those run by Lina, it means that you can significantly reduce the time spent on running on office and give your attention to your patients and your business.
All those lost hours that would have been spent on managing the office instead of worrying about your patients? Gone. The time spent on logistical and operational problems? Gone. The ideal coworking space has all your needs anticipated: modern and thoughtfully-designed medical office spaces, with HIPAA compliance already built in, and amenities like a kitchen and lounge for you to step away in between appointments. All you need to do is decide your hours and focus on your patients.
3. A low-risk setup that lets you be financially efficient
Consider the costs that go into starting your own private practice: the complexities of renting or leasing office space, renovating that space before you can see your first patient, office equipment and furnishings, marketing your practice, sales, office rent and utilities, office supplies and materials, and office staff to name a few. Pile on changing regulations and standards that must be met by your space, by the technology you choose, by you, and by your staff.
That’s before considering that insurance reimbursements are so low and that wages are increasing. Joining previously established conglomerates as a salaried employee might seem to be the only realistic choice. After spending so much money and time attending medical school, it might feel too risky to starting your own practice when you could simply step into a well-paying job, where business operations are already established and there are no overhead costs to you.
But medical coworking, with its setup and cost-sharing, allows practitioners like you to be financially efficient enough to stay independent.
4. A strategy to be independent of big-name hospitals
Doctors know how enterprise health systems and big-name hospitals are dominating the industry. A 2016 study by the American Medical Association found that “less than half of practicing physicians in the U.S. owned their medical practice in 2016, marking the first time that the majority of physicians are not practice owners.” According to Becker’s Hospital Review, for-profit insurers currently control 43 percent of the market, while 60 percent of community hospitals are part of an enterprise health system.
Control of the industry has become concentrated in fewer hands: those of big corporations instead of individual healthcare practitioners like you.
Since medical coworking allows you to be financially independent of those big corporations if you choose to be, this also means that you’ll be able to combine your experience with data and empathy, instead of leaving patient health to the data-driven strategies that optimize for margin alone. You can run your practice as you see fit.
5. A flexible space to grow your practice
One of the most attractive parts of medical coworking is that you pay for exactly what you need. If you’re just starting out in your practice and aren’t seeing that many patients just yet, you can choose a part-time plan that allows you to select one or more dedicated days to work.
As you gather more patients, it’s easy to add more hours or days until you’re ready for a full-time dedicated space. That’s a lot of savings on monthly rent alone since you’re not paying for idle time.
But the benefits to this setup is that it minimizes all the financial risk of running a private practice, saving on both upfront expenses and monthly overhead fees. Instead of working in a hospital setting or taking out big loans to buy or rent medical office real estate, especially in notoriously expensive cities like New York City, you could pay for only what you need as you’re building your patient base.
6. A network to meet other entrepreneurial-minded doctors like you
Life as a doctor can be incredibly lonely and unforgiving. It’s no surprise that doctor burnout is rising and that becomes increasingly complicated for the independent practitioner. While medical coworking won’t solve for this, it’s a step forward. If you find the right space, you’ll be supported by a team of passionate people ready to advocate for your practice. You’ll be surrounded by a community of like-minded practitioners who are also independent, with a rich and diverse history in the industry, who can support you and your practice as you face challenges.
It’s a great way to get exposed to practitioners that you might have never met working in a more traditional or isolated setting. On top of this, a coworking community of independent medical practitioners also brings the benefits of in-house referrals that can help grow your business.
7. A trend that’s on the rise
Though medical coworking is not yet mainstream for medical practitioners, these spaces are beginning to pop-up across the country.
“If consumers have gotten comfortable sharing car rides, office space, and apartments, then physicians can get comfortable sharing their practice with some of their contemporaries,” Evan Lewitt, an associate on the health care brokerage team at the real estate firm CRBE, was quoted saying in a GlobeSt.com interview. “Physicians who prefer not to share will end up having a tough time competing with the large providers.”
So, are there any downsides? Of course – a concept like this is not for everyone. You’re sharing the space with people you may not know well, and you’re relying on the company operating the space to look out for your best interests. You’re trusting that company with your brand in the choices they make within the space, and you’re giving up control over things like your patient’s front desk experience. While suites may be beautiful and modern, they might fit the personality of your practice. If that’s something incredibly important to your idea of being a private physician, making use of these spaces might not be as appealing to you.
A practitioner who does decide to join a medical coworking space is entrepreneurial. They know that the doctor-patient relationship is deeply personal and vulnerable. They know how critical it is to have the freedom to interact as they see fit, instead of being guided by data and by standardization. They don’t want big organizations making important decisions for them. They want to see and tweak the patient experience to fit their idea of care. They want to have control where it matters the most.
And they want to be a part of a larger community who feels the same way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a medical coworking space?
A medical coworking space is a shared workplace environment designed specifically for independent medical practitioners. Similar to traditional coworking setups, it allows doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals to share communal resources, such as waiting rooms, reception services, and utilities while maintaining their individual practices.
These spaces are fully equipped to meet medical needs, featuring HIPAA-compliant technologies and various amenities that practitioners can take advantage of. They offer a flexible, low-overhead alternative to traditional private practices or salaried positions at larger health systems.
What are the benefits of operating your practice in a medical coworking space?
- Cost-Efficiency: Medical coworking spaces help practitioners save on costs associated with leasing, renovating, and maintaining a private practice. Shared spaces mean shared expenses, reducing individual overheads.
- Operational Convenience: Many aspects of managing an office, from the furniture and reception services to compliance issues, are taken care of by the coworking service provider, allowing practitioners to focus on their patients.
- Flexibility: These spaces offer flexible plans, letting you pay only for what you need. Whether you're just starting and need part-time access or you're growing and need full-time space, there are options to suit your needs.
- Financial Independence: With lower operating costs, medical coworking spaces make it easier for practitioners to maintain independence from larger healthcare systems and insurance providers.
- Community and Networking: Being part of a coworking environment exposes you to a community of like-minded healthcare professionals, offering opportunities for in-house referrals, advice, and emotional support.
- Adaptability: As your practice grows, so can your space and service needs. The model is highly scalable, allowing you to change your terms as needed.
What are the biggest challenges faced by those using medical coworking spaces?
- Limited Control: While coworking spaces offer many conveniences, they also require practitioners to give up some control over the patient experience, including the environment and branding.
- Dependence on Operators: Your practice's operations and reputation may be tied to the reliability and quality of the coworking service provider. If the provider fails to maintain the space adequately or offer good service, it can impact your practice.
- Privacy Concerns: Sharing space with other practitioners means you must have unwavering trust in the coworking service provider’s commitment to compliance, especially with laws like HIPAA.
- Potential for Overhead: While generally cost-effective, if you avail yourself of many additional or premium services, the costs could stack up, reducing the financial benefit.
What does it mean to be financially efficient in a medical coworking space?
Being financially efficient in a medical coworking environment refers to the ability to significantly cut down on the operational and initial setup costs of running a private medical practice.
Instead of incurring the full burden of overhead such as utilities, and administrative staff, these costs are distributed among all the professionals using the space. This model allows medical practitioners to focus their financial resources more directly on patient care and other critical aspects of their practice, making it easier to maintain independence from larger healthcare systems and insurance companies.
How does a medical coworking space affect the patient experience?
In a medical coworking space, the patient experience can differ from that of a traditional practice in several ways. For starters, these spaces are often more modern and come with various amenities that make the experience more comfortable for patients. However, because the space and some services, like reception, are shared, the practitioner has less control over the entire patient experience.
This setup means that the quality of service is partly dependent on the coworking provider. However, the primary advantage is that, with less time spent on administrative tasks, the medical practitioner can focus more on the patients, potentially enhancing the quality of care.