The patient is always at the center of the practice. I hold this principle within the context of my own family. For example, if a doctor doesn’t call back with a test result or return a phone query, I seek another doctor. I hold this principle as a physician, also. Even if I arrive at the office from hospital visits late in the day and find I have 10 patient calls to return, I do it. It’s about our patients. We want them to get the service they need and deserve. When that happens, they’ll tell others about their great experience and the circle continues.
As a part of our interview series with prominent medical professionals called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Danny Singer.
Dr. Daniel (Danny) Singer, DO, is a neurology specialist and partner in the Michigan Institute for Neurological Disorders (MIND), headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan. With nearly 25 years of experience in the medical field, Dr. Singer provides comprehensive care for the full range of injuries and disorders of the brain, spine and nervous system. With state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge resources on site, MIND is a one-stop shop for the diagnosis, treatment and management of neurological disorders, providing individualized care to help improve symptoms, as well as assistance with emotional and lifestyle needs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
My father graduated from medical school in 1959 and I was born into a home that cultivated my own curiosity about the world around me and inspired a respect for medicine. I watched my dad care for his patients and soon found that I, too, was passionate about the field and caring for patients. I discovered that I wanted to help others and began trying to emulate my father. He was the consummate physician, compassionate and inquisitive.
When I entered college, I had not defined my exact path, but I knew my future career aspirations lay in science. I enrolled in Michigan State University as a physiology major. After graduating, I was accepted into the university’s medical school.
Throughout my medical studies, I became increasingly fascinated by the workings of the brain and nervous system. I understood that the focus of my career, my specialty, needed to be an aspect of medicine that captured my interest, one whose questions kept me up at night. Learning and becoming an expert on the brain — both its physiology and pathology — I found to be most interesting. The brain and nervous system are at the center of it all. I’ve never regretted my choice to become a neurologist.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
There is no question that my father, Jack Singer, was by far my biggest mentor and inspiration in my career and in my life. My father taught me how to interact with people and truly care about others. He was an example of what being a doctor and what the doctor-patient relationship was all about.
What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?
My neurology mentor, the late Dr. Howard Rossman, my residency director and a partner at MIND, was a great inspiration. I came on board after completing my residency at MIND and became an associate. Over time I learned more and more about the business of running a medical practice. I also saw the benefits that I could pass on to patients as an owner in the practice, such as helping to manage costs, setting the standard in patient care and ensuring our physicians were on the cutting edge of their specialty. I was asked by the existing partners to become a partner and by then I was vested in MIND’s philosophies. I had no choice but to say yes. There was, and is, no better place to be.
MIND has been around now for more than 50 years, so my own practice experience is rather unusual in the medical world. I am part of a third generation of owners. We have been able to pass down the practice from one generation to the next. As a result, we continue to build upon what each generation has learned and built, from both a care and market standpoint.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been so many interesting stories and moments in my career that it’s tough to narrow it down. If I had given it much thought, I might have changed career directions before I got started. The very first call I handled on the very first night of my internship was one asking me to come and pronounce someone deceased. A few short years later, I was on an airplane and they made an announcement, “Is there a doctor in the house?” I remember looking around and thinking, I sure hope there is! A traveler was having a seizure and I was able to step in and help the gentleman.
But the story that really stands out is a case of treating one of my peers. I was a new physician and felt I could tackle anything. However, it was impossible to diagnose the issue. I realized I wasn’t receiving my colleague’s correct medical history. Once he admitted what was going on, the case became easy. It was memorable and humbling at the same time.
Because it is a “helping profession”, some healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization.” How do you address the business aspect of running a medical practice? Can you share a story or example?
At MIND, our philosophy, which has always proved to be true and has eliminated conflict for us, is that the patient is our priority above all else. But medical practices also have a simultaneous goal to provide jobs for employees — more than 100 in the case of MIND — as well as a living for our doctors. At MIND, we operate on the belief that if patient care comes first, everything else will fall into place, including the monetization of our practice.
Managing being a provider and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?
Being both a medical provider and a business owner is very challenging at times. I wear many hats in this field and am constantly changing them — alternating between physician and business owner. That juggling can be the most difficult part of the day sometimes. I’m working with patients and being approached with questions and requests about the business side of the practice, as well. The guiding principle to remember is to prioritize patients. As a partner or owner in a practice, you might have to occasionally spend time that might be considered “my personal time” on business matters to make it work. That’s okay.
From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
One of the greatest challenges I’ve experienced is one of the very reasons our practice has succeeded and has been able to do so much good.
We’re unique in that MIND has existed for three generations of ownership. In the medical field, we frequently find that succession planning has its perils. Often deals fall apart when the generation contemplating retirement attempts to hand off the business to the future generation of physician owners. The reason is that exiting doctors seek substantial compensation for their well-established practice, but the prospective buyers of the practice are not necessarily able or ready to make the investment.
The generational transitions at MIND have overcome those obstacles for the benefit of the patients and the strength of the practice, successfully transferring knowledge of the running of the practice from one generation to the next. This step can be very difficult, as the newest generation of partners transitions into leadership while the departing generation shares valuable knowledge and turns leadership over.
Every owner here is able to prioritize the importance of MIND and move it forward because a focus on patient care is at the center of all decisions.
Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the 5 things you need to know to create a thriving practice, and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
There are five core principles a physician needs to know to create a thriving medical practice.
- The patient is always at the center of the practice. I hold this principle within the context of my own family. For example, if a doctor doesn’t call back with a test result or return a phone query, I seek another doctor. I hold this principle as a physician, also. Even if I arrive at the office from hospital visits late in the day and find I have 10 patient calls to return, I do it. It’s about our patients. We want them to get the service they need and deserve. When that happens, they’ll tell others about their great experience and the circle continues.
- Physicians need to be incentivized to work hard. Salaried positions beget laziness. To compete with bigger academic institutions, I have seen straight salary employment deals created with young physicians. The result is curbed productivity.
It’s human nature. If you’re going to make the same amount of income if you see two patients or 10, how many are you going to see? Reward productivity. A combination of a salary with bonus based on productivity will help your practice grow.
- Be open minded and willing to take small gambles. I shudder when I hear someone say, “We do this because we’ve always done it this way.” To succeed in private practice ownership, you must be a forward thinker. It’s important to understand healthcare is always changing and you must work overtime to stay one step ahead.
As an example, MIND converted to and financially invested in electronic medical records extremely early, because we expected positive outcomes — better communications and productivity. We had our eye to the future and took a gamble. Ten years later, others are still working to catch up.
- Take advantage of emerging technologies to help increase productivity. In addition to converting to patient electronic records, MIND also invested in a streamlined scheduling system that injects ease into communicating with patients and colleagues.
If a patient calls and cancels an appointment, our new system automatically sends out an appointment opportunity via text message, inviting other patients to fill the newly opened slot. Patients can accept or decline, also via text. The technology may have seemed a little far out when we implemented it, but it is now a tool we heavily rely upon.
- Have fun and love your job. The owners of MIND are friends inside and outside of the office. They do team outings, including attending sporting events. Because of our relationships, there is never a day that I dread coming to the office.
As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing patients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?
The partners at MIND have established firm boundaries. We simply don’t meet during patient hours to work on the business. We have an executive team that meets with our CEO, Kevin Browett, on a regular schedule and we’ve empowered him to do his job. He handles the majority of day-to-day business operations for ownership. Meetings of the board of governors take place after patient hours.
Personally, I probably invest about six hours of formal meetings and six-to-eight hours of frequent communications per month, via email and phone calls about the business.
I understand that the healthcare industry has unique stresses and hazards that other industries don’t have. What specific practices would you recommend to other healthcare leaders to improve their physical or mental wellness? Can you share a story or example?
The question of specific practices to help healthcare leaders improve their physical and mental wellness is an important question, but even more so during COVID times. Self-care is important.
Despite my schedule, when my children were growing up, I made sure I never missed a little league game or school program. I understood that I’d never get that time back and didn’t want the stress of missing my children growing up. Family has to come first and it’s worthwhile to carve out the time. I worked hard at my practice, but I would leave my office and go to a game, then return to work, if required.
I also carved out time to exercise. It’s good for the body and also helps improve mental health.
Spending time with your family and exercising will make you both a better doctor and a better business person.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
My absolute favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is from Albert Einstein. He once remarked, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”
I really try hard as both a physician and as a business person to keep everything as simple and straightforward as possible, while still paying attention to detail.
In training residents, I have often observed that residents may approach a very straight forward-looking case and be fooled, overlooking important details that might have set the case apart. This is an important learning opportunity for many going into the medical field.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please follow me on social media at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MIND.physicians) or Instagram at (https://www.instagram.com/mind_physicians), as well as by visiting our website at https://mindonline.com