Multidisciplinary or integrative practice can take many forms
For both seasoned and newer DCs, the thought of an integrative or multidisciplinary practice may be intriguing. You likely have at least one colleague who has taken the leap into this newer health care approach. But is it the right choice for you?
First of all, it’s important to note that an integrative or multidisciplinary practice can take many forms. A DC practice that offers chiropractic services only but co-manages patients or communicates with other providers about patient care could be considered integrative. In some situations, DCs choose to bring other providers into their chiropractic practice as independent contractors or employees. In other examples, DCs join a team of health care professionals in a clinic setting, and there are some DCs who are part of a multidisciplinary approach in hospitals.
No matter which structure you’re interested in, there are things to keep in mind.
Benefits of an integrative practice
- More comprehensive care — As a chiropractor, you pride yourself in putting the needs of your patients first. By having the services of other providers so easily available, you can help meet patients’ needs outside the chiropractic scope. This shows that you truly want the best for them and are more than willing to help them achieve it.
- Easy accessibility — In many cases, the integrative practice houses participating providers in one location. The “one-stop-shopping” concept is convenient for everyone, especially if you have older patients.
- Shared records — In an integrated practice, providers may choose to use the same EHR system. When this is the case, it’s easier to manage patient care. For example, they can avoid duplicate tests, etc., and know what, if any, prescriptions or supplements the patient is taking.
- Communication with other providers — In a regular practice setting, you’ve probably encountered a patient who refuses to allow you to contact another provider. This likely won’t be an issue when the other provider is part of your integrated practice.
- Easier collaboration — Even with well-intentioned providers, it can sometimes be a struggle to collaborate regarding a particular patient. In an integrative setting, the stage is already set to work together. Creating a treatment plan together for a patient will be much more manageable.
- Built-in referrals — When someone refers a patient to any one of the providers in the practice, it’s good for all of you. For example, if and when they need chiropractic care, you will be the natural choice. If you have a patient who needs another type of care, you’ll know someone they can trust.
- Introduce patients to chiropractic — With other providers in the same practice, you’ll have the opportunity to see patients who have never experienced chiropractic care. This is your chance to educate them about its many benefits.
- You decide on the types of providers — An integrative practice is your chance to create the ideal health care setting as you see it. If you’d like to offer a more alternative setting, you may have a massage therapist, acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor on-site. If you prefer more of a medical approach, you have that option.
- Revenue for your practice — Offering more services through more providers creates additional revenue streams for your practice.
Things to consider
- Liability may be an issue — Having an integrative practice with other providers may open you up to additional risk. As with any practice decision, this is something to discuss with your malpractice and other insurance companies before making any changes.
- You may need more space — If you’re planning to welcome other providers to your practice or building, you’ll need to have necessary space. If you don’t, consider if you’re willing to change locations or modify your practice/building to accommodate them (of course, this isn’t an issue if the other providers will be located elsewhere).
- Different personalities — If you are the type of person who likes to work alone, take that into consideration. Or, if you generally like working closely with other health care providers, keep in mind that you may not mesh with all personality types. You’d have to do your best to find other providers you can work well with.
- Proper credentials — If you are welcoming other professionals into your practice, you’ll need to ensure their credentials, licensing and insurance are up to date. This may not be a big deal, but it is something to be aware of.
- Cost — Costs could increase if providers are added, since they may require different equipment. For example, the clinic may require a different or separate EHR platform for other types of providers.
When it comes to joining or building an integrative practice, there are many things to consider. What works for one DC may not be ideal for another. It’s not a decision to make lightly. Before you go down this path or rule it out, talk with fellow DCs in various integrative practice settings about their experience. Then decide what’s right for you.
Dan Zimmerman is director of corporate relations at NCMIC in Clive, Iowa. He coordinates and conducts NCMIC’s programs for students, including presenting risk management seminars and the “Starting Into Practice” program — a free resource for chiropractic students and recent graduates. Learn more by visiting startingintopractice.com.