Is an office right for my lactation practice?


A lactation office can be a great way to offer in-person services in a controlled environment. This article will go through three different types of lactation offices to show you the pros and cons of each, so that you can identify your goals and decide if an office is right for you.

Medical office or healthcare clinic

If you’re looking for an office setting without the stresses of overhead, you may want to consider contracting with a medical practice, clinic, or birth center to provide their patients with lactation services.

Pros of working in a medical office

  • Rent and utilities are somebody else’s problem

  • Supplies and equipment are often provided

  • Front desk staff to handle appointments and payments

  • Maintenance and cleaning are typically taken care of

  • Access to physician, midwife, or registered nurse in case the family’s needs move beyond your scope of practice

  • Insurance billing may be an option even if you are not in-network

  • Possibility of being an employee with benefits

So much is taken care of for you when someone else is responsible for the facility, but that also means you may not have the level of control you’d like.

Cons of working in a medical office

  • Compensation may come with limitations that cap your revenue potential

  • Lack of control over policies and procedures

  • Possible conflicts in practice style

Whenever you’re working with or under someone else, you’re going to need to advocate for non-negotiables and make compromises.

Strategies for finding a medical office

There are many good reasons that a pediatrician, midwife, obstetrician, birth center, or specialist may want a lactation consultant on staff or on retainer. If you find a provider that may be open to the idea, you’ll want to highlight the benefits for them.

  • Diversifying their offerings for their patients

  • Marketing opportunity to reach new patients

  • Revenue opportunity

If you’re in the US, you can learn more about incident-to billing here, which is a way to bill for your services under the physician so that the office can pay your fees out of the increased revenue. Give them solid business reasons for why they need to offer lactation services.

Renting an office

If a formal business relationship with a medical practice doesn’t seem appealing to you, consider an informal relationship through a shared office setting. Find a medical practice where you can rent a space inside their facility.

Pros of a shared office setting

  • Independence for you

  • Mutually beneficial referral situation

  • Freedom to work the way you want to work

  • Fixed costs for rent and utilities

For example, perhaps there’s a massage therapist who only sees clients in the afternoons and evenings, and they’re willing to rent their space for you to use during the day, or share a lease with you.

You’re going to be paying rent and you might be paying a portion of utilities and cleaning/maintenance, and that’s going to eat into your total revenue, but that can be a really great way to get started without making a bigger committment. 

Cons of a shared office setting

  • The rent has to be paid whether or not you have revenue

  • If the other party’s situation changes, you may be stuck with the entire lease or lose your space

  • Potential for conflict with the other party

Because this will be a fixed expense, you’ll need to make sure you can pay for it. How many consults do you have to do in a month to pay for the office? How many do you need to do to become profitable?

Combining in-home visits and office visits

One way to maximize an office is to limit in-home consults to initial visits, then do all of your follow ups in your office. Or require office visits when the family’s baby is older than a certain age. 

Making sure your space is comfortable and homey, and offering little perks like free diapers and wipes in the bathroom can help your clients enjoy spending time in your office.

In-home office

An in-home office is probably something we all dream about. But it’s not feasible for everyone, and there are some very important things to take into consideration before making that leap.

Pros of an in-home office

You may have an image in your mind of your dream in-home office.

  • You can decorate it the way you want

  • You can rent out the space to others for additional revenue

  • No travel time

  • Ability to control your own hours.

But all those dreams coming true comes with a price.

Cons of an in-home office

  • Overhead is 100% your responsibility

  • Zoning laws may apply

  • Disability accommodations may be required by law

  • Additional insurance means additional business expense

  • No separation between work and home

It’s worth it to really sit down and do an official business plan withan accountant or business coach to really run the numbers and see what the possibilities are. 

Conclusion

You may have a vision for your community for an amazing center for postpartum care, where families and babies and parents can get all of their intertwined health care needs met in a warm, inviting, and holistic space. And maybe you’re the one to build that. We need all the visionaries we can get to improve health outcomes for families, and community-based support is always the best answer.

But you don’t have to aim for the big dream in order to pursue an office. It’s all about finding the right space, the right relationships, and the business model that will maximize your strengths and the opportunities available in your community.

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