Starting your own medical practice is an exciting prospect and one that requires careful planning and preparation to make it rewarding, successful and sustainable. Whether you want to set up a general practice or a specialist private practice, there are many things to do before you open your doors.
Let’s look at six essential steps you need to take to start a medical centre.
- Start with a strategy, business plan and budget
A medical clinic is a business, similar to other service-based businesses. While medical practices have more compliance and regulatory hoops to jump through, you still need to plan for the type of business you want to create, what staff and patients you want to attract and where you see the business heading in the future.
This is where a business strategy and plan come in. Your strategy outlines what you need to do to take your medical practice in the direction you want. It covers the big picture: your vision, mission and goals. Your business plan documents what – and who – will make it happen.
What to include in your business plan:
- Clear, measurable goals, with deadlines.
- Key performance indicators for measuring success in your practice.
- Budget and costings: include costs like staff salaries, equipment hire or purchase, premises rental, branding, signage and marketing, website, clinic fit-out and furniture.
- Policies and procedures, detailing roles and responsibilities, and exactly how tasks are to be done. This gives consistency to the running of your medical clinic.
- Marketing plan and budget.
Your policies and procedures are an important part of your business plan, and an essential ‘guidebook’ for its ongoing daily operations. So, it’s important to document them in an efficient way. A practice management software system like PracticeHub securely stores all your practice documents in one place so they are easy to access and update. For new practices, PracticeHub makes an excellent checklist of the operational compliance requirements you need to consider.
It’s a good idea at this planning stage to seek professional legal and financial advice for issues you’re not sure about, so your business plan and costings set you up for success.
2. Decide on your location, premises and demographic
Choosing a location and premises in which to set up your practice, depends on your finances, your vision for your future and the community you want to serve. As the medical practice owner, you also may want to factor in your lifestyle and career goals. Think about:
- Where you want to work in 5 or 15 years
- Do you want to be located near a hospital or other healthcare providers? This can help with referrals for new business.
- How much travel do you want to do?
- How many other competitors are in the area?
- What’s the demographic of the area you’re considering, what services do they need and how can you best meet them?
- How accessible is the location? (e.g. public transport, parking, disability access)
- What’s the future potential of the area? Will it see population and infrastructure growth?
Your answers will help narrow down locations and premises for your medical practice, and identifying your demographic will help in your marketing to attract new patients.
3. Hiring and managing your team
To ensure you hire – and retain – the right staff for your medical centre, you’ll want to find people who align with your business values and vision, and who will be invested in helping you realise your goals. Finding a competent, enthusiastic and driven practice manager is invaluable. They are like the captain of your ship, helping steer your team and your business in the direction you want them to head.
Once you’ve assembled a great clinical and non-clinical team, it’s important you adhere to the relevant employment legislation requirements, including equal employment opportunity, work health and safety and Fair Work obligations.
Managing your practice team effectively comes down to transparency in communication, and efficient processes. Poor processes are the biggest potential source of risk in your practice. So, fostering an open, no-blame work culture, together with detailed, written policies and procedures will help manage high-risk areas such as patient follow-up, recall and results.
PracticeHub’s online platform includes customisable templates for practice policies and procedures such as:
- Patient health records
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Patient communication
- Appointment management
- Risk management
- Infection control
- Work health and safety
- Organisational culture
There are templates specifically designed for general practice and other medical specialties.
In PracticeHub, you can assign tasks according to certain staff roles, with an overview in the dashboard showing what tasks have been assigned to whom and which are outstanding. This helps foster a sense of ownership and accountability in your staff. A tasks audit trail provides evidence for accreditation.
4. Train staff well from the start
Training is an essential part of staff induction when you first open a medical clinic, and for their ongoing development. But outsourcing staff training can be costly and time-consuming.
PracticeHub includes learning modules you can assign for staff to complete in-house. Developed by practice management experts and reviewed by Avant risk, clinical and legal experts, the training covers some of the most common medico-legal and employment categories where lapses can expose your practice to risk. Content is regularly updated to reflect changes in legislation and standards, keeping your practice current and compliant.
The content covers the same eight core policy and procedure areas mentioned above, so you know staff will always be up to date with their knowledge and skills, to perform at their best, reduce risks and stay compliant.
5. Get your compliance right
Medical practices are highly regulated businesses, so ensuring yours is compliant before it opens is paramount.
If you’re a doctor-owner of a medical practice, you will need to notify Medicare and Ahpra about any changes to your practice details.
Thorough documentation, with version control and audit trails, is crucial to reducing your compliance risk and providing evidence for accreditation.
Using PracticeHub, you can create tasks and monitor staff completion, so you know tasks will get done consistently and on time. You can link your policies and procedures to relevant regulatory websites, so you’re always up to date on your obligations.
Two unique and innovative apps in PracticeHub, Ahpra Alerts and Certificate of Insurance (CoI), also help you save time and reduce your credentialing administrative burden and medico-legal risk.
Using the CoI app, a doctor can opt in to automate the collection and validation of their certificate of insurance, uploading it directly to their own records. The app also integrates with Avant’s database, so Avant members simply consent to their certificate of insurance being sent automatically to their nominated organisations each year.
The Ahpra Alerts app synchronises with Ahpra’s database, ensuring a medical clinic stays up to date with a practitioner’s registration status, including daily notifications of any changes to registration. The app automates information collection from the 15 health and medical boards overseeing the registrations of health workers, including doctors, allied health professionals and nurses. This reduces the administration burden for your practice staff and reduces the risk that a healthcare worker has inadvertently forgotten to renew or update their registration.
PracticeHub also helps you keep on top of your equipment maintenance, and insurances and contracts renewals. With its integrated registers, you can centrally manage these tasks so you never miss a deadline.
6. Marketing and advertising your medical centre
Before you open the doors to your medical clinic, you’ll want to start letting your community and other healthcare practitioners know about your new clinic. But before that, you need to read up on Ahpra’s advertising guidelines to ensure you don’t mislead patients and market your medical business in a safe, ethical and compliant manner.
By engaging with your local community, you’ll learn about their needs and what services you can offer to meet them. Whether you’re starting a general practice or specialist private practice, look for opportunities to build relationships with potential patients, other specialists and allied health practitioners.
Identifying what sets your medical centre apart, that is, your point of difference or unique selling proposition, will help you stand out in the market and inform how to promote your business.
But tread carefully when it comes to getting the word out about your business. Starting a medical practice comes with great responsibility, so be mindful of the wording in your brochures and ads, and on your website and social media channels. Be aware also that the Ahpra guidelines don’t permit patient testimonials on your website, or reviews on your Facebook page. And you need to be able to substantiate any claims you make about your services.
PracticeHub is a useful tool for setting and guiding expectations around your marketing and advertising policies and procedures, with links to relevant legislation or regulations. For example, you can create a policy around your social media marketing, linking to The RACGP’s Guide for the use of social media in general practice, relevant to any specialty.
Setting up a medical centre is a huge undertaking. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Simplify your groundwork, and the actual daily running of your medical clinic, with online practice management platform, PracticeHub.
PracticeHub makes practice management simpler, safer and more efficient. To find out more, phone us on 1300 469 866 or book a meeting with one of our helpful consultants.
This article is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on its content, and practise proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this article must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2023.