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Building Practices for Patients

Many people don’t realize what it’s like to maintain a private practice in today’s healthcare environment. As a private practitioner myself, I know and love the challenges of growing and maintaining a medical practice. I can relate to the frequent feeling that you’re swimming upstream and settling for a fraction of what employed physicians get paid.

After six years of practicing as an employed physician, I left that system for self-employment. The shift wasn’t easy. I remember the immense initial adjustment it took. I had to rethink my definition of success and I recall feeling the tension between the financial freedom that being an employed physician offered versus the financial stresses of being in private practice.

Yet the payoff was priceless. Fifteen years later, I can’t imagine working any other way. My life is simple and sustainable. My medical practice, in fact, even operates from a model of sustainability. There are tradeoffs, but the rewards are great.

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Of course, the healthcare landscape is changing for patients, too. More access to information has led many people to ask for and even demand new treatment approaches. They want to learn what made them sick, how to heal, how to stay healthy, and how to live consciously. This strong doctor-patient relationship is what patients, the consumers of healthcare, deserve. And private practice – where each of us can, in theory, set the terms and tone of our patient encounters – can be an excellent environment in which to foster this dynamic.

Healing and transformation require work. As adults, we must recognize that our choices will determine the kind of world in which our children will live. We must do the good and hard work of creating a shift in our current societal paradigm. Therefore, as physicians – across all practice models – let us strive toward the promise of healing without compromise. As Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Dr. Rose Kumar is a Stanford-trained internist based in Pewaukee, WI, where she is founder of the Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine.

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