Opening a private medical practice is undoubtedly one of the most challenging tasks you could undertake as a practitioner. Despite the years spent studying and training, most doctors find that business skills are absent from that training.
Fortunately, it’s not as overwhelming as it looks. We’ve put together this guide to help medical professionals who are ready to take the next step to private practice commencement - and want to know what practical steps they need to take to start out smart.
For multi-clinic businesses, each location must have its own provider number which you can link to your software provider’s location ID for claiming. You will then also need to arrange:
It’s recommended that when starting any business, you engage the skills of a business lawyer who understands the standards and legal processes that apply to you.
The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) helps you find the government licences, permits, approvals, registrations, codes of practice, standards and guidelines you need to know about to meet your compliance responsibilities.
Firstly, think about the patient demographic you're looking to reach. Where do they live? What areas are they most likely to frequent? For instance, if your practice focuses on young adult health, look for areas nearby a school, recreation centre or University.
Alternatively, you might seek a more centralised location in the CBD to cater for office workers, so they fit appointments in around their workday with minimal disruption.
Don’t under service your patients - with web and social media being a prominent source of information, your patients know better and won’t settle for less. Yes, there are regulatory requirements you need to meet but don’t let that hold you back from making it a nice environment.
Use decor which is practical, comfortable and uncluttered. Avoid colours, fabrics or styles which are fashionable right now, as they date faster than more simple, classic designs.
Paint the walls in subdued pastel colours such as pale blue, green or pink. Avoid using stark white on the walls as it tends to make spaces feel overly clinical and cold; if you want to use a more neutral colour choose a cream or beige tone that has a little warmth.
Some modern practices have also provided wifi access to keep patients entertained during long waiting times.
Ensure there’s clearly visible signage to indicate reception, waiting rooms, toilets and exit doors. Don't forget street signage and signals for parking areas and wheelchair accessible entry points.
For patient privacy, consulting rooms should be located as far away as possible from reception and waiting room areas. In small spaces or where walls are particularly thin, consider soundproofing.
Fifteen years later the question became “Should I manage my practice from the cloud?” and not long after this, the question is changing to “What else can I expect from the cloud?”
This is the beginning of a transformation in healthcare that will empower you and your team to do more, better engage your patient, optimise your operations and transform your practice. Not to mention the significant cost savings for a new practice.
Technology and the cloud have made it that much easier to stay connected with patients. Here are the essentials you’ll need in order to get up and running:
Capital Expenditure, when you pay a large upfront cost for an item and your accountant then depreciates the asset over a period of time. Capex purchases often require loans.
Operational Expenditure, when the upfront investment is low and you pay for consumption of a product or a service on a frequent basis (e.g. monthly). The amount is immediately deductible and does not require to be depreciated, therefore your cashflow is impacted less.
When putting together the ideal team of professionals to support your practice, think about the following:
A practice manager is arguably your greatest resource. Unlike other administrative staff, a practice manager oversees the operation of your practice from a business perspective - including finances, maintaining industry alliances, planning and other activities associated with your clinic that are not related to medicine.
It might sound simplistic, but if you don’t feel good when talking to a potential employee, chances are your patients won’t feel comfortable either. Seek out staff who can contribute to your practice by creating a relaxed and inviting environment; a positive workplace culture can have an immense impact on patient satisfaction.
But even when a practitioner already has a positive reputation, they might feel like they’re starting from scratch when they move to a new location or community where nobody knows them. So how can they build trust within the medical community - and the public?
One way is to be active in the local medical community by attending workshops, seminars and conferences. Networking with colleagues and making new connections will not only raise your own profile as a practitioner, it will lead you to new opportunities within your industry and profession.
Whether you are a specialist or a GP, your network of care is your asset. Building a network of referrers from within your discipline or other disciplines, including the allied health space is an important part of your business. Loop your team in on your plans to build your network and have a process in place for maintaining those relationships. Hosting educational nights with inexpensive catering are always a good way to keep your followers engaged and interested.
Savvy healthcare providers have adapted to this by introducing new ways of interacting with their patients - even before they step into the clinic.
As more and more people go online to book services (anything from restaurants to GP appointments), medical practices are seeing the value in having a digital marketing strategy. Without having an online presence, practices face the risk of not being found by the people who need their services.
Like any startup, the best way for a new medical practice to raise awareness about their brand and stay competitive is by employing a well thought-out marketing strategy. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be expensive; there are many free and low cost tools available which can help to promote your business.
You can provide information about your practice, your own skills and experience, and even provide a bookings portal via your website. DIY (Do-It-Yourself) website builders such as Wix and Squarespace offer simple, cost effective website templates that can be set up without the help of an expert designer.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Yelp are wonderful avenues for establishing a reputation for yourself and your practice. They also give you an opportunity to create a ‘voice’ for your brand, and share useful healthcare information with your target audience (the patients most likely to visit your practice).