Choosing a name for your medical practice

Let’s go over how I chose my practice name. First off, your corporate name can be different from your doing business as (DBA) name. Having said that, I decided to use the same name for both.

As a California professional corporation, my corporate name has to end with “incorporated” or any variation thereof. You have the option to use your own name or a fictitious name. Because I have an ethnic name, I didn’t want to use my real name, which could potentially self-select my patient population. Besides, my practice would be less likely to show up as a top result for ophthalmologists on search engines if it were named after me anyhow.

When deciding on a fictitious name, I wanted to be as generic as possible. Once again, the main reason being that I would have a better chance of showing up on page 1 of a search inquiry. I didn’t want to be specific like “Choi Eye Clinic.” I also didn’t want to be abstract or cute like “Eye Candy Vision Institute” or “Rainbow Eye Care.” I just wanted my business name to convey nothing more than the location and the service it provided, since those would be the key words that people would enter into a search.  Once potential patients click on my result, that’s when they would have the chance to learn my name, face, and philosophy.

So, I ended up narrowing my choices down to “Santa Clara Ophthalmology” or “Santa Clara Eye Center.” Amazingly, both of these names were available, as well as “San Jose Ophthalmology” and “San Jose Eye Center.”(My office is located at the border of Santa Clara and San Jose by the way.) My guess as to why these names were still available is  because a large number of ophthalmologists in the area are old school solo practitioners who practice under their own name as a sole proprietor. These guys probably did not have much impetus to be business-minded like our generation, since all you had to do was to hold an M.D./D.O. degree and a pretty smile to thrive back then.

By the way, in California, I had to submit a paper inquiry with the state to check the availability of a corporate name. As for the fictitious business name, the Santa Clara County clerk recorder website had an online database search feature. You’ll have to check with your own state and city/county to see how you can search name availability.

I went back and forth between “Santa Clara Ophthalmology” and “Santa Clara Eye Center.” Each had its own pros and cons. “Ophthalmology,” as we all know, can be a confusing term for the general population to understand and spell. However, for those patients in the know, there would be no confusion that I’m an ophthalmologist, and not an optometrist. And that’s where the ambiguity of “Eye Center” can be a problem.  There are a lot of optometry practices in my area, and most of them have generic titles like “Eye Care” or “Vision Clinic.” There would be no way for me to distinguish myself from optometrists with “Santa Clara Eye Center.”

Ultimately, I ended up going with “Santa Clara Ophthalmology.”  I’m still going to put a lot of key words like “vision” and “eye” on my website, so that I can still show up on searches for these terms.

My corporation name will be “Santa Clara Ophthalmology Incorporated.”  I debated about whether my corporation should have such a geographically limiting name, which could become an issue if I decide to open up another office in another city. I didn’t want to be “Ho Sun Choi Incorporated” either because that could pose a problem if I decide to take on a partner in the future. I can always change my corporation name in the future, but I don’t want to have to deal with that kind of administrative headache. In the end, I still went with “Santa Clara Ophthalmology Incorporated.” I figured that I would just set up another corporation if I do decide to open a satellite office. I could also create an umbrella corporation that encompasses all my subsidiary corporations. Something to worry about on another day. Let me get one office up and running first, without going into ruin…

(Above originally posted December 3, 2010 by Ho Sun)

Howie’s comments: as usual, Ho Sun’s advice is spot on. Many physicians name the practice after themselves, but in my opinion it is better to incorporate geography into your practice name for search engine optimization. First of all, if people from your old practice want to find you, they can do so with a simple Google search. (don’t forget to upgrade your addrsss on Healthgrades and Vitals). Secondly, if you include the location in the domain name, you’re more likely to jump to the top of the first page of Google searches. You can also reserve domain names that sound similar to yours or for the next town over, and redirect them to your website. Finally, regardless of whether you take on a partner or sell your practice, a geographic or neutral name probably has more recognition and would be worth more to a buyer.

In Arizona you can search the corporation commission to make sure your name isn’t reserved and pay a small fee to reserve it for sixty or so days before you formally incorporate (you’ll need a practice address to incorporate).

One advantage of doing this early is that as soon as you incorporate, you can get a barebones website up and  running, while you work on your full website. One factor Google looks at is how long your site has existed.

Having said that, while I reserved my domain names with Godaddy shortly after incorporation, I didn’t get my website up until after my practice opened, but got high on first page of Google quickly, so I guess sometimes it doesn’t matter as much.

In terms of naming your practice, you could use the name of your city, county or metro area. I almost signed a lease for a office in the city of Avondale (right on the other side of the road from Goodyear), but would’ve still named my practice Goodyear Eye Specialists.

When Ho Sun had to move his office a few years ago, he was worried that the practice name would be off since the city of his office changed from Santa Clara to San Jose. Well, San Jose is in Santa Clara County, the domain and practice name will still help draw patients from Santa Clara, and most people think of his practice as “Dr. Choi’s practice” anyway.

Amazingly enough, Santa Clara Eye Specialists is still available (then again, so is “Goodyear Ophthalmology”). The bottom line is you want to name your practice and get a domain name that will rank you high on search engines.

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