Physician Spotlight: Gary Goldenberg, MD
It’s all hands on deck when building out a new dermatology practice.
Dermatologists who decide to go it alone today must be as business savvy as they are medical minded. The challenges of opening and maintaining a private practice are manifold, but the rewards can be, too. Gary Goldenberg, MD opened a private practice with his dermatologist wife, Kristina Goldenberg, MD, in New York City in 2017, after eight years serving as medical director of the Dermatology Faculty Practice at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. He learned a lot along the way. He shares some advice with Practical Dermatology®.
What are some of the primary considerations in opening a private practice?
Gary Goldenberg, MD: One has to figure out what kind of practice they want. Taking a step back and figuring this out is the most important thing.
Location also becomes critical. It is important to pick a place that is convenient for your patient population. Finding the right space that works for your practice is important. If you are looking to create a quiet and serene environment, you may not want a busy street with lots of noise and traffic. Privacy is very important for our patients, and this can be an issue in some elevator buildings. The right space and layout must take patient flow into account, as well.
Is the overall look and feel of the practice important?
Dr. Goldenberg: Yes, the interior design, especially in the reception area, is extremely important, because it sets the mood for the type of practice as soon as patients walk in. Whether it’s a cosmetic or medical patient, the practice needs to look the part. Patients expect a certain design and comfort element, and if you don’t have it, it may affect their overall experience.
Staffing up is a challenge. Any tips?
Dr. Goldenberg: You need to find the right staff for the practice. The most important thing when it comes to hiring is checking references. Some candidates look great on paper and seem to have amazing job experience, but when you call older references, you may find out who they really are. You have to be consistent and persistent and go back and call everyone the candidate has ever worked for or claimed to work for. It’s a huge red flag if a reference only has a cell phone number, not an office number.
For us it was also important not to “poach” staff from other dermatology practices. The New York City dermatology community, like most dermatology communities, is small. We are all colleagues first so this was not an option we were willing to entertain.
Any advice on branding a new practice?
Dr. Goldenberg: You want to keep everything consistent. Everything has to look and feel the same. This includes your physical office and your virtual or web presence, as well as letterhead, intake forms, business cards, and social media. We used a professional logo designer, which was worth the investment.
Doing everything yourself is impossible. Hire a specialist when and where you can. This may include a publicist if you don’t have your own traditional media contacts or a search engine optimization team that can get your site on the first page of Google through high quality content and smart linking strategies.
How do you know when you are ready to open your doors?
Dr. Goldenberg: We were very methodical before we opened our doors. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Everything has to be perfect. We had a soft opening for existing patients to make sure we were polished before we had our grand opening.
Reviews can make or break a new practice. Any strategies to share?
Dr. Goldenberg: It’s very hard to get people to leave reviews, so you have to ask, especially those patients who you feel had a positive experience and you’ve taken care of for a while. If there is a negative review, and you know who it is, you can reach out to see if there is anything you can do to change their mind. Some may be kind enough to delete or update their negative review. Even more importantly, try to fix the problem if one exists. You don’t want another patient to have the same negative experience. Don’t worry if you don’t have all five-star reviews, either, as that may look fake. Most discerning patients will realize that you can’t make everyone happy all the time.