Kristi Fender is a freelance writer and editor in Shawnee, Kansas, with a long history of covering animal health and veterinary medicine. She is the former news channel director of dvm360.com and editor-in-chief of dvm360 magazine.Read Articles Written by Kristi Fender
A thriving veterinary practice is one that continually evolves. Do you have some underutilized space in your facility and wish it could be leveraged to generate more revenue? Consider a creative arrangement with a specialist where you provide the overhead and the radiologist, surgeon, dermatologist or fill-in-the-blank-specialist provides the services. You both could be on your way to serving your clients in a more complete —and lucrative — way.
Christopher Allen, DVM, JD, provides legal consultation to veterinarians and also owns a number of practices in the northeast U.S. He has rented space to specialists in the past and knows of a number of other practice owners who do the same. It’s an advantageous relationship both ways; the host hospital receives rent, a portion of the specialist’s earnings, a discount on services or some combination of the above, and the specialist saves mightily on overhead. “It’s a money-saving situation for both sides,” Dr. Allen says.
Radiology is by far the most common type of specialty for this arrangement, Dr. Allen says, but surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology and oncology also lend themselves to being carried out within a general practice. The key is for the specialist to have fairly portable and mobile-friendly equipment, as well as access to resources of the general practice.
A sublease is imperative so it’s clear what each provider’s obligations are, Dr. Allen says, and it must be contingent on approval from the owner of the real estate if that’s not the host hospital. This can be a short document initially with an agreement to revisit the terms at the six-month mark and hammer out all the details once you know what the issues are. Or, you can decide to terminate the arrangement at that point.
Also, let your insurance provider know what you’re doing to anticipate any issues involving liability, workers’ compensation and so on. For example: “If an employee of the general hospital gets bitten by a patient of the specialist, who’s responsible?” Dr. Allen asks.
Here are some other potential pitfalls to look out for and decisions to think through:
- Parking: If the visiting doctor and his staff take up a few spots, as well as clients seeing that doctor, will the host hospital have enough parking for its own clients?
- Collections: Who’s going to collect the specialist’s fees? Will they trust the host hospital staff to do it or work out their own system?
- Licensing: Some municipalities, such as Long Island, New York, require a separate business license for the specialist in this type of arrangement, Dr. Allen says.
- Signage: If you’re going to put up a sign for the specialist, make sure you know what the local guidelines are as well as any requirements of your landlord if the general practice is a leasehold. “You can get fined,” Dr. Allen says. “And they can tell you that you can’t be there if you play fast and loose with signage laws.”