West Olympia Psychiatric Services
Name: Laura Hoeman, NP
Name of Practice: West Olympia Psychiatric Services
Location: Olympia, Wash.
Patient Population: children, adolescents and adults in need of counseling and psychiatric medication
Practice Niche: Many of my patients are children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Most are low income, and I accept Medicaid coupons, which is somewhat rare for mental health providers.
Startup Costs: I already had an office and business phone from when I was in private practice as a licensed counselor.
I had been paying these expenses for years, so my overhead didn't increase much when I left a full-time salaried job in 2003. My office is very pleasant, and the rent is only $395 per month.
Year of Launch: 2003
Financing Sources: On occasion, I have borrowed money from family members.
Marketing Activities: Local nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in primary care started me off well with referrals. Pediatricians also send referrals.
The first few months, I sent out pens with my practice name to primary care offices in town.
I have mailed business cards to primary care, chiropractic and counseling offices. I advertised in the phone book at first, but not anymore - it's expensive, and I get referrals without it.
Current Staff: none
Average Number of Patients a Week: 25
Billing: I accept Medicaid, Regence BlueShield, Premera Blue Cross, Uniform Medical Plan, Community Health Plan of Washington, Molina Healthcare, Pacificare and some private pay. I do my own billing on Sunday nights while I watch TV.
Software and Other Office Tools: a laptop computer, a Palm Pilot and Epocrates. I like QuicDoc Software for quick psychiatric write-ups.
Current Financial Health of Practice: Up and down. My overhead is low, and I have a weekend job that provides me with medical benefits. Because Medicaid reimbursements are low and, for the most part, only for medication management, I'm not rich yet.
Future Plans: Oddly enough, I'm transitioning to work with fewer patients, and I hope to have a small, high-quality practice, rather than focusing on volume.
I'm doing reverse marketing - referring many patients elsewhere so I can concentrate on fewer.
What I Wish I Had Known Before Starting Out: I love private practice, but there are some down sides: After-hours calls can be time consuming and draining if you have a lot of patients, and you have a lot of responsibility for patients' lives. Also, it's expensive to buy your own medical benefits. The upside is that you control your own way of practicing, and that's a wonderful feeling.