No matter what it takes, we take care of the patients.”
Dr. Richard Hamer, MD grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and went to college at the University of Alabama, then went to medical school at University of Alabama in Birmingham and did neurology residency at Parkland Hospital, then started his neurology practice in 1989. Currently Dr. Hamer has been practicing neurology, which he had done for the last 27 years. His first accomplishment was being voted a Texas Super Doctor for 11 years in a row by Texas Monthly magazine. Dr. Hamer is board-certified in neurology. Dr. Hamer’s practice is in East Texas where he cares for patients with neurological issues at the Diagnostic Clinic of Longview. It’s a multi-specialty clinic which he shares with his partner and one other independent neurologist.
Where did the idea for Diagnostic Clinic of Longview come from?
I’ve been around the medical profession my whole life, as my family’s been in the medical profession. So, I decided to go to medical school, and then when I did my rotation in neurology, I just knew instantly that’s where I wanted to be. I looked around the country for the best neurology program that I could find. At that time, Perkins was one of the best. I selected that program and moved from Birmingham to Dallas. When we opened our practice, we each received and equal share, and the practice has been growing over the years.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We start 7:30 in the morning and we’ll go to about 5:30 at night. I see about 35 patients each day, and usually work through lunch. If we have some cases that need extra attention, we will see them afterwards. Our schedule has evolved into that over the years as we see so many patients, especially the patients have chronic diseases.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Neurology is one of the fields that is changing a lot as far as treatments go. There are new treatments coming out all the time. I attend conferences and I review journals every day, and go to meetings every year to keep current with new treatments and medications as there are constantly new procedures being introduced in the field of neurology.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I think we’re getting much better at treating multiple sclerosis. We have had some new medicines come out in the last few years. I have seen much better treatments recently than we had previously in my 30-year career. It is just very exciting! Also, there have been great improvements with Parkinson’s disease treatments. We had some new medications come out that are easier and better at extending the patient’s life, as well as their quality of life. I have also seen improvements in stroke treatment. We are much better at treating strokes now with the advent of clot busters and doing different procedures to harvest clots in people with strokes and educating patients better about going to the emergency room when they have a stroke so they can save time and save brain cells.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
You know, medicine is a business, and you’ve got to be business savvy as far as controlling your cost, and our costs are employees. We have to make sure our employees are efficient and, also, in regards to the patients, when I prescribe medications now, I have to worry about the cost of medicines and if the patients can afford them. I try to keep up with the cost of medicines and what insurances will pay for and what they will not pay for, and try medicines that they can afford instead of medicines they can’t afford. It is a constant battle of “Is this a medicine that they can afford?” Not if they can take it or if it helps. Since most of our pations are on Medicare, I must be mindful of their cost.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Oh, gosh! I grew up on a 100 acre farm where we farmed and raised cattle and hogs. It was a very good experience because I learned how to work hard and work fast, but it was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. It made me decide I did not want to be a farmer. It was sun-up to sundown, and you worked to exhaustion.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I don’t know if I’d change anything. I like everything about my practice so I wouldn’t change anything. I believe that the best thing about my practice is the patients. They teach me things all of the time and they are like part of my family, and I treat them like family. Also, my office staff which includes had some of the same girls there for over 20 years and we have even seen a few retire. They are all like a family, too.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think, for us, the main thing is taking care of the patients. Learn what it takes to make sure that you can take care of their health. We remind our staff over and over that’s what we’re here for. Sometimes you kind of lose sight of that when you’re bogged down and dealing with insurances or dealing with the phone calls and stuff, but the most important thing is, we emphasize to them over and over, is that no matter what it takes, we take care of the patients.
In addition, we do this, and I recommend anyone in practice do as well: tell the patients that there’s no such thing as a stupid question or silly phone call except for one that did not get asked and didn’t get called. If they’re having a problem, call! I probably get about 40 phone calls a day, and I like that. I like the patients to call me and let me know what’s going on. I tell every patient that comes in “Listen, if there is a problem with the medicines or if you are not doing well, please call me. You are not bothering me.” My new favorite saying to them is: “I don’t get mad if you call. I get mad if you don’t call.”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
That’s just making sure you take care of the patients. Make sure the patients are happy, and then they go back and tell the referring doctors that they’re happy with you, and they’ll keep referring to you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I guess the hardest part is fitting the employees that we have with the right job, bringing them in and discovering that they have good skills, and then developing those. Sometimes we try to put them in a spot and they don’t do well, but we move them to another spot and they do much better. A good employee’s hard to find, so when you get one, you must figure out how to keep them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice)
I guess for people who are just starting into a medical practice to begin with, just take your time and develop the practice the way you want it to be. Find what your interests are and work with the patients and develop your practice. The people that refer to you will get to know that you like to do that particular type of thing. Anything that you don’t like to tool with, just kind of send those off to someone else who does like that task and is good at it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m trying to think! I recently went to an Alabama/LSU game with my boys. We had a good time. They came in from Denver and from Louisiana and then we went to the game together. And that was great fun. We hadn’t done that in a few years, so it was nice to spend the day together.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use Group Cast for scheduling. It has been a great tool for us.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s called Adams Principles of Neurology. It’s very comprehensive, all the neurological diseases, and it’s been around for 30 years.