[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Wealthy Doc, the only physician financial blogger I know of who has been at it longer than I have (started in 2007). Unfortunately, while he’s a great writer, he’s not quite as good at marketing as Physician on FIRE so I don’t think I ever saw any of his posts before I’d been doing this for a couple of years. I don’t think he was actively blogging as much back then as he has been the last year or two either, but it’s a great blog I’m happy to endorse. We have no financial relationship. In this post, he discusses ways to boost your income. The original title was “Doctor, Do You Need To Make More Money?” which I changed to the even more clickbaity one above. Forgive me, but you’re here so it worked.]
As a physician, you are already in a high-income profession. Sometimes, however, you may need to boost your income. Maybe it’s because you’re wanting to pay off your house or the debt on your office building or your student loans. Perhaps you’re saving up for an early retirement, a sabbatical year, a trip around the world, or your daughter’s college/wedding expenses. Whatever the need, there are quite a few options to boost your revenue. We will explore a few of them here:
1. See More Patients
Yes, this old-fashioned method still works. Ultimately medicine is a service profession. In the most basic terms, your job is to meet patient needs. You can still do that by seeing a whole lot more patients. Often the highest income individuals are also the busiest. You likely can boost your revenue by getting closer to 100 patients seen per week.
2. Increase Administrative Work
You may be able to get a stipend as a medical director and do some administrative work for your hospital network. Some providers still have a full clinical schedule and then do their administrative work in the early morning or after work or during lunchtime meetings. This combination allows you to boost your income. Also, depending on your specialty, physician leaders may be compensated more than some clinicians.
There are a lot of ways to make money. Some of them involve using your clinical knowledge but in a way that is different from your normal practice. This can involve consulting, disability evaluations, expert testimony, etc. If you have a hobby that could be monetized such as a blog or handyman services then be sure to explore those options as well. Sometimes it can be rejuvenating to do work other than medicine.
4. Change Your Specialty
Do you regret not choosing a higher income field? It isn’t too late. Plenty of folks have gone back and switched from family practice to radiology, for example. If you are not up to a whole residency, could you do a fellowship? Often you can boost your income tremendously by a 1-2 year fellowship. This is mostly available to general internal medicine doctors who want to specialize (e.g. infectious disease or endocrinology) [but there are other possibilities as well (Peds EM fellowship for a pediatrician, EM fellowship for an FP etc-ed.] You may find you can have better hours, see fewer patients, and still make much more money.
5. Learn New Procedures
Although we are slowly getting away from a fee-for-service system, we are not there yet. You can often boost your income by performing more procedures. Are there procedures in your specialty that you are not doing? Could you learn how to do them? Some profitable procedures can be learned in a weekend or a week-long course and then spending some time with a mentor. This investment can pay off huge dividends.
6. Specialize in a Niche
7. Expand Your Team
Could you boost revenue by expanding your practice? Perhaps you are seeing as many people as you can safely see in a day. Likely you could see more patients as a team if you collaborate with physician assistants and with nurse practitioners. Dentists have learned how to use dental assistants efficiently. Similarly, with lawyers and paralegal services. Physician practices still have a lot to learn.
8. Renegotiate Your Contract
You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. Will your employment contract be up soon? Rather than automatically renewing it at its current terms, consider renegotiating. Incomes for physician specialists have steadily increased over the last six years; has your income kept up? Would you be better off on a fixed salary plus incentive or a 100% productivity-based contract? Have you reviewed recent MGMA data for your specialty compensation to know for sure that yours is competitive? If not, you have some work to do.
Generate some passive income for yourself. That way your money works for you rather than the other way around. When you have passive income investments you wake up in the morning richer than when you went to sleep. It is the closest thing to getting paid for doing nothing that we can reasonably and legally achieve in this lifetime. Ask around. See who is financially successful in your area. Take them out to lunch. Pick their brain. I make more from investing than I do from working my day job. That did not occur overnight. It took slowly gaining skills, knowledge, and streams of income. Look within your medical profession for buying opportunities but also outside your profession such as small business and real estate.
10. Move to a Larger Practice
11. Leave Academic Medicine
I love academic work. There are few things more rewarding in life than writing, research, or teaching. Just know that there is a tremendous financial price that you’re paying for this. It may not be worth it if you need to boost your income. Perhaps you could work for a few years in a private practice and then return to academia later?
12. Get a Degree
You have proven that you are good at learning and test-taking. Why not take that to the next level? Through online and evening programs there is now a world of choices around advanced training and education. Consider some IT training and add medical informatics to your toolkit. Consider an MBA to learn more about leadership, practice building and investing. Even a law degree can be obtained part-time. You can then be a formidable medical defense attorney.
13. Establish a Cash Only or Concierge Service
Don’t assume you must treat Medicaid and Medicare patients and work the way everyone else does. Recently primary care doctors around the country have established cash only or concierge services. They often work fewer hours, make more money, and have virtually no paperwork or insurance headaches. It is not for everyone, but is worth considering.
14. Move to a High Income, Low Cost of Living Area
For many doctors reimbursement is determined by large payers or by the federal government. There is little difference in the total revenue paid for a given CPT code in different regions of the country. Nevertheless, doctors do make more money in some states or towns than in others. There are also tremendous variations in the cost of living such as housing or commuting costs [and taxes-ed]. Consider exploiting this “geographic arbitrage.”
15. Increase Ancillary Services
Could you add a revenue-generating service to your practice? Could you add a spa suite? Could you offer cosmetic services for cash only? Could you invest in the surgery center, medical office complex, imaging center, physical therapy suite, gym/health club, etc. Physicians and other investors around the country have made small fortunes doing just that.
Good luck with finding a way to boost your revenue that fits your lifestyle. I hope this post has opened your mind. Too many of us place ourselves in a little box based on our residency training and assume there’s only one way to make money. Be creative and grow your revenue! Have you made any of these changes already? Are there others that should be mentioned here? Comment below!