Full transparency to start: Tess MacQueen and I go way back to the grind of PA school at the University of New England, where we graduated together in 2012, and she is absolutely one of my favorite humans! She continues to impress me with her ambition, personal/professional growth, and ability to tackle new challenges.
Tess is a certified PA with nearly 10 years of experience in Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, and now Primary Care/Aesthetics. She has leveraged our unique ability as PAs to switch specialties, giving her unique experiences throughout her career. Her most recent endeavor has been to develop her own medical office, Pine Point Medical, which is in Lansing, NY, and co-owned with her husband Doug, who happens to be an Infectious Disease doctor. As her practice has been doing business through the ongoing pandemic, Tess has had to routinely adapt, pivot, and innovate solutions to many unforeseen circumstances. Given that she not only delivers clinical care to her population but also runs the administrative side, she has many roles within her day-to-day, giving her quite a diversified perspective about medicine. To hear about both the clinical and business sides of medicine, we interviewed Tess about her experiences, and here are her answers:
Tell us about your business.
I co-founded Pine Point Medical, PLLC with my husband who is a physician. Our internal medicine practice is located in rural upstate NY. We see patients both in the office and via telemedicine. Our mission is to provide evidence-based, high-quality healthcare regardless of insurance. For that reason, we have policies in place for the uninsured & contracts with local labs to help offset costs to indigent patients. We will also see patients for “quick care” complaints if their regular PCP is not available.
What compelled you to build your practice?
I am a mother of two, and stepmother to one. I found it difficult to juggle the needs of my family while working full-time in a clinic. A lack of consideration for the working parent along with a rigid schedule ultimately made me consider private practice. A former employer implemented a policy that mandated we give three months notice if we needed a day off. This was not realistic for me. One winter, when the schools were closed because it was a state of emergency, the clinic was open and I was expected to drive in two feet of snow and make it in. I realized I needed more flexibility and the ability to work somewhere that didn’t have such a strict attendance policy (needless to say no patients even showed up during that snow day). Now, when schools are closed, we are able to close our business or do telemedicine from home, and if I need a day off because a child is sick, I can easily re-schedule patients.
Where should someone start if they are considering starting their own practice?
The first place someone needs to look if they are interested in starting their own practice is for a knowledgeable attorney. Each state has different laws about PA’s owning a medical practice.
What resources could you not live without when you were starting your practice?
I read several books about starting a business, which were helpful in a sense, but also were not entirely geared towards medicine. Opening up a medical practice is a lot different than opening up a donut shop. I did find this resource to be helpful: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8910-opening-a-medical-practice.html
What has been the most frustrating part about running a practice?
The most frustrating thing about running our practice is the billing. We are of the mindset that we want to know every aspect of our business, in detail — this also applies to the billing. I spend a fair amount of time going through claims and accounting for claims that were paid (or not). If claims were denied, I need to figure out why. I find it useful to have a grasp on the billing as an administrator and a provider because once I understand why something wasn’t billed correctly then I know how to bill correctly for the next patient. It has been a steep learning curve but of the utmost importance. Things as simple as what order you put diagnoses in actually matter for how you get paid. As a provider, I never knew any of this!
What has been the most rewarding part of running your practice?
The most rewarding part of running our practice has been improving access to healthcare for people who would not have ordinarily seen a provider. Most of our patients have come to us having not been to a primary care provider in many years.
We thank Tess for taking the time to answer our questions and appreciate her perspective and experiences as a clinician, practice owner, entrepreneur, mother, wife, and all-around wonderful person. We hope that this interview will educate and inspire others to take on new endeavors, and serve as a reminder that there are so many possibilities with our careers as PAs.
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