Dr. Annie DePasquale, founder of Collaborating Docs, fell into her role of an entrepreneur by accident. As a board-certified family medicine physician at federally qualified health centers in the Washington DC area, she was a collaborating physician for local nurse practitioners in private practice. She helped them after hours and on weekends when they had questions. She went over charts and offered advice. She loved it.
As word spread that Dr. DePasquale was happy to mentor nurse practitioners, more came to her needing help. She began to ask friends and colleagues to work as collaborating physicians. Eventually, this became so common that she served as an unofficial matchmaker. “It became sort of unbelievable how many people were asking me. There are caps on how many people you can help at a time,” she says.
Dr. DePasquale started Collaborating Docs in 2020, first as a side hustle. COVID was a catalyst for the business when more nurse practitioners were leaving hospitals to start their own practices.
How Collaborating Docs helps nurse practitioners build private practices
Today, Collaborating Docs has helped over 2000 NPs match with more than 1000 physicians. “I don’t want a nurse practitioner’s obstacle to opening a new practice to be finding a doctor willing to help at a reasonable cost,” she says.
Every state in the U.S. has specific regulations regarding collaboration for nurse practitioners’ private practices. In about half the states, collaborating with a physician is not required.
For those NPs in states that do require collaboration with a physician, Dr. DePasquale wants to elevate that partnership. She knows from experience that many nurse practitioners struggle to reach busy collaborating physicians – let alone build a successful partnership with them.
She sets three ground rules for physicians who support her NPs:
- Physicians must be available to answer questions during normal business hours.
- Doctors and nurse practitioners meet once a month over a video chat.
- The physician reviews 10 percent of charts monthly to understand what’s happening at the practice.
These standards are above and beyond what most states require. “Most state requirements are vague and pretty minimal, so any client of ours is getting meaningful help,” says Dr. DePasquale.
Nurse practitioners benefit not only from their collaborating physician’s support but also from Collaborating Docs itself. They provide private practice advice, a connection to other NPs and a legal agreement for collaboration with a physician.
Mentorship for nurse practitioners benefits the healthcare system overall
Physicians benefit from formalizing the nurse practitioner partnership as well. Most collaborate with nurse practitioners because they want to be a mentor and provide value. Setting clear expectations makes this more likely to happen. Those doctors who aren’t interested in committing to the Collaborating Docs standards aren’t a great fit for the program. “We do an intense vetting process before bringing on new physicians. If we get the sense this is not going to be something they want to help with, we’re just not a good match for them,” says Dr. DePasquale.
Growing Collaborating Docs is more than just business development for Dr. DePasquale. She sees matching nurse practitioners with physicians who help them grow their practices as an important way to make communities healthier. She works with many nurse practitioners in small communities who are making quality healthcare more accessible and convenient across the U.S. “I think we’d all agree we’re in a healthcare crisis in America,” she says, “There’s a lack of access to care, especially in rural and low-income areas, so that’s our favorite kind of client to get the call from and to help make this happen.”
Patients everywhere benefit from healthcare providers who are excited about their work. Owning a practice as a nurse practitioner allows NPs to choose their focus area and how they treat patients that works for them. For example, booking 30-45 appointment slots instead of the standard 15-minute appointments can be an important way to prevent burnout.
Dr. DePasquale knows firsthand what it feels like to be burnt out. “I was a burnt-out family medicine physician. The healthcare system is so flawed with back-to-back visits, no breaks and no time to eat lunch or run to the bathroom,” she says.
Dr. DePasquale considers nurse practitioners a key solution to this problem. Most NPs are family nurse practitioners, which makes them trained in areas of medicine with the biggest needs – family medicine and primary care. “When it comes to healthcare education, I think those practitioners are the best teachers in the world,” says Dr. DePasquale.
That’s what makes the work of Collaborating Docs a force for good. “The nurse practitioner starts the practice of their dreams. The doctor gets a side gig that they’re excited about and access to care improves.”
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Want to learn more about Collaborating Docs? Listen to our podcast episode featuring Dr. Annie DePasquale.