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THE NEW FELLOW'S GUIDE

to surviving private practice

Before we start
FOREWORD
DR JOSEPH SGROI MBBS, FRANZCOG

Congratulations on completing your Fellowship; it is a significant achievement and a pivotal point in your career.

As a new Fellow, you represent the future of healthcare in Australia. The path you choose and the care you deliver can (and will) significantly impact your patients, the wider communities in which they live, and our entire industry.  

As healthcare in Australia and around the world undergoes considerable change and reform, I encourage you to keep pace with these developments. Understanding how technology and innovation are transforming our industry will empower you to optimise the care you deliver today and in the future. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset and mastering the business side of medicine will ensure you survive and thrive. Be sure to surround yourself with trusted mentors, partners and peers who can guide, support and scale as you and your practice grow.

Stay curious, keep learning, embrace change and constantly seek to improve standards of care and patient experiences.

Best of luck.

READ ALLREAD LESS
Before we start

PLAN, PREPARE, LAUNCH

The end of your medical training is in sight and you’ve made the decision: you’re going into private practice.

Whether you’re planning to work in an established practice or hospital, or looking to open your own clinic, simply surviving the next few years isn’t the only goal – you want to thrive, grow your reputation and deliver exceptional care for your patients.

Our goal with this guide is to align your first-class medical skills with smart business know-how. Explore the comprehensive roadmap, ideal for the new wave of medical professionals ready to prepare for private practice and pioneer smarter healthcare.

Plan Prepare Launch 1
Survive and thrive

ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR SPECIALISTS GOING INTO PRIVATE PRACTICE

In any small business, the path of an owner will be filled with both challenges and triumphs, so forward planning is a must. The formative years of your career are a crucial time to establish yourself as a leader in your field and set yourself up for long term success.

The following are our essential strategies to help you survive and thrive in private practice.

Tip one

Seek out mentorship

Understanding the realities of running a private practice begins with soaking up invaluable insights directly from the people on the front lines. Whether you’re still studying, or already working in a hospital or established practice, there is immense value in engaging with other seasoned medical professionals who have both the foresight and experience to offer you mentorship.

You want to observe and consider what works (and what doesn’t), then apply the learnings to your own business plan. Trusted mentors and advisors are invaluable; staying curious and asking the right questions will open up a landslide of insights. For example, your starting point may include these topics:

  • What areas did you struggle with most in getting your practice up and running?
  • How did you build a successful referral network?
  • What do you enjoy most about running a private practice?
“It was never a particular ambition [to open a practice], but I did have a vision of the kind of practice I’d like to run and, as it would also be a sound investment, I decided to go ahead. I wanted somewhere local with easy access throughout the day, and I also wanted room to expand. I was confident that the people who work here would appreciate having a medical practice close by. As I'd done a lot of research I felt comfortable about taking on the loan."
Dr Prema Joseph
Tip two

Engage your network

Becoming a leader in your field starts well before you finish studying. Building your network and forming strong relationships with other medical professionals is a key part of developing a successful referral strategy.

Invest time into meeting people face-to-face and making connections, through attending workshops and seminars. High-value organisations, like the Australian Medical Association (AMA)1 offer a variety of educational and networking opportunities through events, conferences and training seminars at both the state and national level. Engaging with other doctors and health professionals using digital platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook can also help to build your reputation within the industry. Taking ownership of who you are and how you want to care for your patients can set you apart from the competition.

Tip three

Create a business plan, early

A business plan is your blueprint for building a successful practice. By developing one early, you can evaluate each part of your business – and see where opportunity meets demand. This includes your business structure, service range, staffing, competition, finances, marketing approach and most importantly, your future goals.

A solid business communicates key information to staff and other stakeholders like banks and investors, if and when financing is needed. Creating one as early as possible establishes solid business foundations from which you can launch. The best business plans are simple and nimble.

Assuming you have your accounting, insurance and legal structure set up (more on this later in our guide), you can begin forecasting and modeling the type of practice you wish to create. Factors to consider include:

  • How many, and which type of patients would you like to see each week? 
  • How many referrals do you need each month to achieve this?
  • How many GPs are in the area, how will you target them, and how often?
  • What will your fee per consult and projected weekly income be?

Building simple forecasting models, such as the example below, helps you pinpoint your ideal numbers and identify the key strategies and infrastructure needed to achieve your goals.

NO. OF PATIENTS / WEEK
40
TYPE OF PATIENTS
DIABETICS
FEES PER CONSULT
$250
WEEKLY INCOME
$10,000.00
NO. OF REFERRERS
60
REFERRALS/ MONTH
30
TOTAL PATIENTS
180
Tip four

Be nimble with your systems

Setting up your own private practices means you can build your systems and processes from the ground-up – take advantage of this freedom. Ensure all of your systems, technology and process are streamlined and designed to create the type of practice you want to run. 

Adopting a system that scales as you do is the best investment for cementing a path to long term success and avoiding the most common growing pains.

Ultimately, your technology must support operations and growth at every stage, therefore a reliable and scalable practice management system is a must. Consider cloud-based systems which can evolve and innovate as your business grows. It’s also crucial to evaluate the changing expectations of your patients, and look for a practice management platform that engages and empowers patients in their healthcare journey.

Be Nimble with your systems
Staying ahead of the curve

What changes are on the healthcare horizon?

While you’re preparing for your future in private practice, it’s important to remember that your success relies upon adapting to and providing for the dynamic healthcare industry of the future.

As a successful clinician, you must focus on today while keeping your finger on the pulse of tomorrow; especially the following key trends.

Medicare, now and in the future

Medicare and its ever-changing relationship with medical practices often comes with challenges and confusion, particularly as new legislation emerges and federal budgets fluctuate.

The 2017 changes have proven to be a positive shift for many, ensuring there is more help available to those most in need of assistance.

While Medicare provisions to overall health services tend to increase, the projected government expenditure looks to decrease for pharmaceutical benefits and services. The direction of these changes is largely informed by the rising rates of many chronic diseases and other key trends like our aging population. 

Be sure to:

  • Know the item numbers relevant to you
  • Know the rules around them and what restrictions apply
  • Calculate your own private fees for each item
  • Choose a practice management platform that will automatically calculate the gap and out of pocket expenses for you and your patients

 

Medicare now and in the future
“The changes to the [Medicare] safety net are good for pregnant women, people with chronic mental health problems and good for patients with cancer, who will need a lot of visits in a short time.”
Michael Gannon, President of the Australian Medical Association

The rise of connected care ecosystems

The evolution of cloud-based medical practice management platforms has changed the way we capture and leverage patient data – secure and instantaneous information sharing between doctors, patients and other healthcare providers is now an everyday reality.

Fast access to real-time patient information saves time, supports more informed care decisions and helps deliver better patient experiences. Cloud-based systems also encourage the rise of ‘the mobile practice’, where on-the-go, anywhere, anytime access equips clinicians to effectively and safely manage their practices from the palm of their hand.

 

A wealth of new data

A wealth of new data

The digital transformation of healthcare has seen a flood of new data and platforms become available to medical professionals. But how the data is captured and categorised is the difference between drowning in data, and making the data work for you. Your choice of practice management platform will play a key role in this.

Modern, cloud-based systems enable the easy capture, categorisation and filtering of relevant patient data, while presenting it in an easy-to-act-upon format. Sophisticated platforms go one step further and allow you to view data in both a macro and a micro format for deeper analysis and more informed decision making. There are many ways that data can assist you when used effectively, and the benefits go beyond you and your team — your patients are involved and more informed over the care.

 

Minimising risk

Clinical risk management covers all aspects of patient management and care across private practice. Areas such as secure information sharing, consistent and timely contact with patients for follow-ups and test results, appointment bookings, and regular patient checkups all have associated risks and breakpoints.

The notable area of responsibility is the security of patient data. The risks of data breaches and compromised patient confidentiality are real, and data breaches now carry heavy fines for Australian healthcare organisations and individual practitioners. It’s therefore crucial to plan how to minimise these risks to you and your practice.

Implement best-practice IT security policies and ensure your choice of practice management platform is backed by an Australian Government-certified provider, such as Microsoft Azure. Effective training and ongoing security audits will further minimise the potential for a data breach.

Minimising Risk
Getting started checklist

The checklist for opening your own practice

This checklist covers the essentials for any new medical practice owner. Simplify the process, minimise the risks, and maximise the opportunity around every corner.

Taking the next steps

Launching your career in private practice is a huge milestone – you’re on the cusp of a fulfilling and meaningful career. Our advice: “It’s time to be a CEO.”  Though your practice may start as a small business, your role as a healthcare leader and owner offers incredible responsibility, success and power – more so, than many CEOs.

Next steps 3

After all, good CEOs proactively consider ways to optimise their business, empower their staff and patients, while keeping a close eye on the financial side. They’re ready to:

  • Invest in the right tools and technology for their business, without wasting resources
  • Enable their team to shine by nurturing and training them and paying them well
  • Prioritise their own health, through maintaining a balanced lifestyle and striving

Despite the challenges that will arise, your decisions will reap enormous rewards, both personally and professionally.  Early preparation will put you in the best position to pioneer long-term and sustainable growth.

The time to start planning is now.