Niche coworking spaces are gaining popularity and medical coworking is increasingly helping doctors meet their needs and those of their patients in private practices.
This is a marked change for the medical industry where doctors traditionally lease space when setting up a private practice. However, over the last few years, private practices are reportedly embarking on a massive consolidation mission where smaller niche medical coworking spaces are integrated into larger healthcare providers.
Coworking is widely regarded as the reason behind this change. Doctors are selling their practices and instead relying on niche medical coworking spaces.
What is medical coworking?
Medical coworking uses the same principles as regular coworking spaces. Space and resources are shared by members who get access to a professional workspace without any of the upfront costs or restrictive rental agreements.
Instead of attracting a range of entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers, medical coworking spaces are used by doctors. Independent medical practitioners share the space, including a waiting room, reception, equipment, and so on.
A range of niche medical coworking spaces now exist. For example, Clinicube sublets medical office space and has two locations in New York. Nexis Wellness is another medical coworking provider based in Cleveland and LINA has three locations in NYC.
Benefits for private medical practices and patients
Medical coworking helps doctors reduce the costs associated with setting up and running a private practice, which is particularly important when setting up a practice with relatively few patients.
Instead, a doctor can use a niche coworking space as they need to. It also frees up practitioners from the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities associated with running an office and focus on their patients.
This is lowering the barriers of entry for practitioners looking to start a private practice. Doctors can set up a practice in more manageable phases. This is also helping the medical industry re-establish the human touch that is sometimes lacking in today’s corporate culture.
Speaking in an article for Forbes, Reed Wilson, CEO of Private Practice Doctors LLC, said: “One of the greatest benefits of private practice is that doctors and patients have much more freedom in how they interact — the essence of the doctor-patient relationship. It is a deeply-personal environment that depends on conversation and working together. In large practices, these interactions are typically guided by rote formulas and directives devised by administrators. Doctors necessarily lose some ability to tailor treatments and prescriptions to individual patients’ unique needs.”
Wilson also cited the reasons he believes private practices have struggled in recent times: “There is a dangerous trend underway in American healthcare: The death of the private practice doctor’s office. This is a deliberate trend driven primarily by federal policymakers, and it does not bode well for either the cost of healthcare or the health of individual patients.”
Wilson goes on to claim the Affordable Care Act has facilitated this shift because its financial incentives favor consolidation over independence and the increased regulatory burdens it places on private practices.
A 2012 survey from the Doctor Patient Medical Association supports this theory, which found “95% of physicians see corporate medicine supplanting the traditional private practice.” A 2016 study also revealed, “less than half of practicing physicians in the U.S. owned their medical practice in 2016, marking the first time that the majority of physicians are not practice owners,” according to the Forbes article from Wilson.
But the times are changing and doctors should consider coworking models to expand their practice and remain competitive in today’s demanding medical industry. Speaking in 2016 during an interview for GlobeSt.com, Evan Lewitt, an associate on the health care brokerage team at the real estate firm CRBE, said: “Physicians who prefer not to share will end up having a tough time competing with the large providers.”
He added: “If consumers have gotten comfortable sharing car rides, office space, and apartments, then physicians can get comfortable sharing their practice with some of their contemporaries. And if the thought of this makes them sick, at least they all know a good doctor.”