Hitting A Nerve

Private practice’s freedom still outweighs its challenges for me


This past Thanksgiving weekend I left a message on my office machine that we were closed because my staff and I were camping in a tent outside a store to save $3 on socks on Black Friday.

Of course, I had the usual legal disclaimers about calling 911 for emergencies and how to reach the doctor on call, but the message was just silly.

This isn’t anything new for my practice. My patients are used to the occasional humor. Most of them probably expect it by now.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.
Dr. Allan M. Block
Does it put some people off? Probably. But hey, it’s my dinky little practice. Medicine is a serious business, and sometimes a sense of humor is all that keeps us sane.

It’s been 17 years since I left a large group and opened up my solo operation, and I’m still here. I have no regrets. My little practice may be eclectic. I wear shorts to work. My secretary’s 2 year old is at work everyday, keeping us laughing. I get to leave goofy messages on office voice mail. But it suits me.

This doesn’t change my focus of trying to practice competent neurology. I don’t claim to be the world’s best doctor, but I hope I know what I’m doing. I may be trying to have some fun here, but that doesn’t mean I take this job any less seriously.

Although things may change, right now I just can’t see myself as part of a large institution. I know my patients. I see each of them myself. I try to understand their concerns and backgrounds so I can treat them appropriately. I don’t try to cram them through in 10 minutes while checking off electronic medical record boxes to document “meaningful use” requirements.

Of course, the flip side is that I don’t make as much money as I could. But as long as I can stay open and support my family, I don’t care. I came here to help in a way that’s meaningful to both my patients and myself, and I’ve found it.

In the November 2017 issue of Medscape Business of Medicine was an article about physicians choosing private practice. Dr. Richard May, a nephrologist in Ohio, said: “We’ve opted to stay with this model because we control our lives. We know the cost of doing that is that we are probably not making as much as we could if we were with a system, but we get up every morning feeling good about how we practice medicine. We’re happy answering to no one but ourselves and not feeling any pressure to meet patient-load quotas and hit monetary goals.”

And all I can say to that is: “Amen, brother.”

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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