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7 Demographic Factors to Consider When Opening or Relocating a Medical Practice

Posted by Erick Cutler, CPA on Jun 27, 2014 8:00:55 AM

A medical practice’s location is a major factor in determining its success. The location dictates the practice’s exposure to the public and may determine the type of patient you attract – for better or worse. Rather than have the location dictate your patient base, consider having your ideal patient base determine the location. In short, understand your demographics.

Why do demographics matter? Factors such as age, culture, gender, income, marriage status, number of dependents and the need for specialist services all impact the bottom line.

Often times, doctors jump into either purchasing or leasing new office space before they have engaged in any type of analysis. A particular location, say a new medical building, may be alluring: if it is good for other doctors, it must be good for me. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Before selecting a practice location, carefully research the demographics of the area you are considering.

Here are seven factors to examine when deciding the right location for your practice:

1. The number of competitors in your field of practice in the area.

If you are looking at locations in a major metropolitan area you will have a hard time finding a location where there are no practices similar to yours. Research different areas to determine where the lowest and highest concentration exists; then you can make an educated decision.

2. The patient-to-doctor ratio in the area.

If you find it impossible to locate in an area void of your specialty, dig deeper. Find a location that has enough of a population to support all of the practices.

3. The demographics of your patients.

For example, it is not a good idea to locate your office in an area that is heavily populated with recipients of Medicare if you do not take Medicare.  If you are dependent on direct pay, you may want to find a location with a relative high median income. If you are in pediatrics, it may be wise to locate in an area where there is a high concentration of young families – setting your practice near senior living may not be ideal. Not being in sync with the patient demographics in the area could have a negative impact on the success of your practice.

4. The number of specialist physicians in the area and other facilities such as hospitals and clinics.

The more specialists that are located in the area, the greater the chance of developing a solid referral base. In general, patients prefer their doctors and primary hospital to be located in same geographical area.

5. Accessibility of the practice location.

Consider factors such as parking, public transportation and visibility from the main street.

6. The growth or decline of the population in the area.

Generally speaking, up-and-coming communities are preferred for a new medical practice over older, developed communities.

7. The availability of support services such as physical therapy, radiology, and pathology services nearby.

This can also serve as a referral base, but more importantly, the close location to your practice may be an added convenience for your patients. 

We all know that many patients are extremely loyal to their physicians, and will follow them to wherever their practices are located. We also know that doctors with exceptional reputations attract patients whether or not the location is geographically convenient. However, it is better to hedge your bets and take the time to research the best location for your medical practice. Start your search with at least three different possible locations in mind. The U.S. Census Bureau, local government, newspapers and the local Chamber of Commerce can all be valuable resources.

Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.

Topics: Medical