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    Risky business

    Wall Street stint helped Dr. Eric Schweiger shape entrepreneurial sense

    Not yet 40 years old, Eric Schweiger, M.D., practices dermatology and owns 24 dermatology practices in New York and New Jersey.

    Dr. SchweigerDr. Schweiger, founder and chief executive officer of Schweiger Dermatology Group, says he took risks to build the single-specialty group he owns today. And he isn’t done growing the business, yet. 

    The practice started in 2010 with a single office, as many do. But Schweiger Dermatology Group grew rapidly in 2011, prompting Dr. Schweiger to hire dermatologists and physician assistants to work with him. He opened more offices, and, by 2013, had four locations. 

    That’s when he says changes in medical practice caused a shift in his entrepreneurial thinking. 

    “… the landscape of medicine was changing and moving away from solo practicing doctors,” he says. 

    Twenty years ago, the traditional course was for doctors was to go into practice until they were around 60 years old; then, they’d bring on a young associate to eventually take over the practice, so the older dermatologist could retire, he says.

    Today’s younger doctors coming out of residency are less likely to pursue solo practice. They want to join group practices and tend to avoid ownership. Reasons for this can be traced to the alphabet soup of regulations on medical practices, from EMRs and HIPAA to MACRA, according to Dr. Schweiger.

    His business strategy offers doctors a chance to practice without the burdens of owning a solo practice. The dermatologists become Dr. Schweiger’s employees.

    “We thought there was an opportunity to buy practices from dermatologists, who were really looking to focus on the clinical side going forward. We would put in junior dermatologists out of training [and other providers] to help supplement their practices,” he says. “[As a result, we’ve formed] a really large single-specialty group practice that allows doctors to practice autonomously and focus on patient care—with a really strong back office to support that.”

    The group sees more than 250,000 patients annually. Schweiger Dermatology Group was a semi-finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 Award in the New York region — an award program that recognizes leaders who have created market-leading businesses and are reshaping the landscapes of their respective industries. 

    The the current healthcare climate requires that doctors treat patients more like consumers with choices, Dr. Schweiger says. 

    “They want short wait times. They want to be able to book appointments online. They want email access to their providers. Those are all things that we have done,” he says.

    A large group also allows Dr. Schweiger to implement cost-efficient programs, like a laser sharing strategy, in which devices are shared among a group of nearby offices. 

    Dr. Schweiger, who continues a part-time practice focusing on acne patients, says some of his business sense came from a stint he did during a gap year, between his internship and dermatology residency at the University of Kansas, when he worked on Wall Street at a biotech investment company. 

    “That helped shape my business sense. But a lot of it is instinctual. A lot of it is learning along the way,” he says. 

    Dr. Schweiger’s advice for dermatologists who might want to join a group practice or own one is to really look at how they enjoy spending their time. 

    “If you enjoy spending your time seeing patients, then that’s what you should be doing. If you enjoy spending [administrative] time, then that’s what you should be doing.”

    Many of the doctors who have sold their practices to Dr. Schweiger’s group became practice owners because they wanted more control or autonomy, but they ended up having to focus more on the business side. Selling their practices was liberating, because they could go back to what they really enjoyed: patient care. 

    “I realized that I really like building something; I really like interacting with other doctors a lot. That’s how I wanted to spend my time and was able to shape my career,” he says. 

     

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has written about health care, the science and business of medicine, fitness and wellness ...

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