Setting up a new medical centre? Some tips to unlock its full potential.
The thought of setting up a new medical centre can be exciting and daunting all at the same time.
Being an doctor, you have probably worked in a number of centres before making the decision to start your own practice.
Hopefully you have been lucky enough to work at a well operated medical centre with a capable Practice Manager and Medical Director. Perhaps you have been unlucky and worked at a sub standard centre, which has inspired you to try and start something better yourself.
Whichever way you arrived at the decision, there is one certainty ahead – setting up a new medical centre can be quite stressful.
If you are thinking of hiring a consultant, it pays to do your homework first. Prepare a list of questions to ask the consultant and most importantly build a relationship with them. They are going to be your best friend for six months, so building some trust will help towards future teamwork.
Trust is a two-way relationship. The consultant knows how hard you have worked to become a doctor and most good consultants have had 10 to 20 years of experience in setting up or managing medical practices . Ensure that you don’t telling the consultant how to set up a practice as they would never tell you how to consult a patient. And also, if you know how to set up a practice, why do you need a consultant ? Be respectful of each others boundaries and you will enjoy the journey.
A great consultant is methodical. They will have check lists or a project management system. Setting up a practice is organised in a systemised fashion. Even Medicare documentation needs to be sent off in a systematic order. Let your consultant take the lead.
Your part of the relationship is making sure you have your company structure organised. Will you have a company, will you be purchasing a property, or maybe you will have a property trust? Take the time to sit down with your accountant and lawyer and get these issues sorted out. You will not be able to get finance without a solid company structure in place.
You will also need to get a business plan which both you and your consultant can work on. For example, which location are you going to set up in? Are there any medical practices near you and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Don’t think that your centre is going to be different to any other clinics which have been set up …unless it is! Write down your point of difference and “Google” your ideas to see if anyone else has thought of them before.
There are so many medical centres in Australia now and a great shortage of doctors to recruit. Don’t be fooled. Just because you are building a nice new practice, doctors are not going to be knocking at your door. In fact, most doctors don’t like working in new centres as they are worried about a stable income. Some doctors ask for retainers, a sign on payment, and then if you get desperate you are also paying recruitment fees which can be obscene.
Factor recruitment fees into your borrowing. Also, be careful of landlords offering free rent and fit out. I recently heard of a landlord offering free rent for a number of years, however when the practice owner did have to start paying the rent, they would have never been able to afford to pay it even the practice was at full capacity! Make sure your consultant can do a financial feasibility study of a practice so you understand the costs involved.
Be weary of involving friends and family with the build or setup of your centre. By all means, get their opinion, however it does get messy if you have asked a friend to do something and it has not been done. It can cause a lot of stress. Let your consultant drive the process, this way it will be a lot less stressful to all parties.
IT and telephones are a crucial part of your practice. Make sure you check the IT company and ensure they have impeccable references in the health industry. In my experience, it is better to have an IT company that talks “medical”. Ask them for a project management time line of when items will be completed. It is also essential that when you have completed setup you have a week to test everything i.e. phone messages, emails, software, everything! You want your practice to look professional on the first day. Again, let your consultant drive the process. The IT company may be responsible for setting up the hardware, but the consultancy company may be responsible for setting up the software.
Train your staff well. Let them know your expectations from the beginning. Let your consultant know what you expect so they can ensure the staff have systems to follow. A good consultancy company will have manuals for nurses, reception staff and the practice. Make sure the staff understand the lines of communication.
Ensure your practice is compliant. Again, any good consultant will make sure you are following all aspects of the legislation. This includes billing methodology, the Privacy Act legislation, Workcover and superannuation for staff. There are a lot of different elements which must be ticked.
The most important tip I have for , is do not rush!
Building a medical centre is a huge decision. Some doctors take months to go through the process in their head. A lot of doctors have asked friends or colleagues. Ask frank questions from your consultant and again build a good relationship with them. Bounce around ideas but don’t be offended if your consultant tells you that your idea is not good . Consultants have seen the peaks and troughs of building a centre and even the successful looking centres have had barriers at one point or another.
The key word here is ‘planning’ and the most important part is having fun, while enjoying the process.