Starting a private practice on your own is very different from joining an existing clinic. There are all kinds of challenges that present themselves owing to the unique combination of business management and healthcare provision. If you go it alone without the appropriate support, it can be a recipe for disaster. This is especially true if you trained in the public sector as most of us do at the beginning of our careers in medicine. The NHS simply does not teach practice management to medical schools.
More specifically, running a medical practice as a solo practitioner can be a major challenge because:
- Marketing and promotion is down to you
- Patient acquisition is not guaranteed in the private sector
- Your admin staff (if you even have any!) may work remotely
- Private healthcare is very competitive and patients vote with their feet
- Multi-tasking needs to be second-nature
- The buck stops with you and you only
It sounds a little daunting to open up your own practice when you see a long and yet not nearly exhaustive list like this. However, when you make the right preparations in choosing your practice management system, going solo doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, when done properly, starting out in the private sector can be the opportunity of a lifetime.
How to Succeed at Self Promotion
Although you may not have had any formal training in the art of self-promotion, you certainly will have cultivated various mannerisms and ways of conducting yourself when in the presence of patients. As such, you know what your patients expect from you as a fellow human being in a clinical role. Adapting this for the purpose of patient acquisition is therefore not as tough as it first may seem.
Interesting potential patients and then acquiring them as your loyal repeat clients is all about the message you are trying to get across to them. While it is advisable to check in with a public relations expert with experience in the private healthcare sector, you can take a lot of your knowledge of patient expectations with you.
Regardless of how you choose to promote yourself to your preferred audience, the main thing is to track how you are getting on and ensure that you have a way of cutting your losses on bad acquisition channels and optimising your approach towards the most cost-effective ones.
A good practice management system will help you to keep an eye on exactly how many patients are coming to your clinic for the first time as a result of a given acquisition channel. The best systems will then calculate how the performance of these channels is changing over time and even work out precisely how cost-effective a channel is.
In the early days of your private practice, balancing your books is crucial. It’s always going to be important that you stay in the black, but when you may still be relying on investment from outside sources, it’s critical that you get it right.
New Patient Acquisition to Build Your List
Finding enough patients to keep your private practice viable can be rather tricky even if you are an established name in your field. Even once you have a few patients in your list, there’s no guarantee you’ll persuade them to stick around. Sometimes, it only takes a few moments of difficulty in the patient experience to send people looking elsewhere for their medical care.
When you’re on your own and you don’t know too much about self-promotion, it’s quite easy to be tempted to spend a small fortune on marketing, especially with the promises given by various PR companies and the like. In actual fact, you may be more prepared than you realise. All you really need is a helping hand with the decision-making process. After all, you know your patient demographics best and you understand your patients’ actual needs inside out.
Task Delegation to Remote Staff
One of the most challenging aspects of solo practice is the sheer volume of work that you wouldn’t normally have to deal with. Here, we’re talking about paperwork, of course. While back in the NHS you would have been filling out your fair share of forms, a lot of the basic admin work was handled by others. Furthermore, all of the management side of things, paper-related or not, was sorted out by the relevant non-clinical hospital staff.
The most suitable type of practice management system for staff working remotely has to be cloud-based in nature. In other words, your chosen system should be able to be accessed from any location and on any device you like. That way, you and all of your colleagues can stay on the same page, quite literally, at all times.
A cloud-based practice management platform will allow you to instantly collaborate on:
- Letter writing and transcribing
- Planning marketing and promotions
With all that said, when you first start out on your own in the private sector, you may not have a secretary to support you. Truthfully, you might not even need a secretary at all in the beginning if you pick the right practice management solution.
Here’s what paperwork you can handle in mere moments with automated document production:
- Referral Letters
- Financial Reporting
- GP Letters
- Lab Test Requests
Streamline the Patient Experience
Patients coming to the private sector for treatment will ultimately vote with their feet every single time. Whereas in the NHS, they are by and large limited by the options and solutions chosen for them, private patients have much more control over their care. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why people go private in the first place if they have the means and opportunity to do so.
The fact is, private patients relate to their clinics and doctors in much the same way as they would to a representative of any industry. As such, you need to take great care in developing your patient journey to ensure that the experience had is an optimal one. Providing world-class care is the easy part. After all, it’s what you have been trained for since the very first step you took through the door at medical school. What you will find more difficult is ironing out the issues with the rest of the patient experience.
Overall, the patient journey and thus experience can take the same focus as your business model. There are 3 main steps:
- Patient Acquisition
- Service Provision
- Patient Retention
Assuming that you everything down pat with the purely clinical aspect of your private practice, you need to focus on acquiring patients in the first place and then retaining them after each consultation.
Patient acquisition is likely to start off by mostly being dependent upon active self-promotion via digital means such as Twitter and other online content as well as more traditional means such as commentary in local newspapers. Your end-goal should be to generate as much traffic as possible due to word of mouth recommendations. This is a very healthy way of acquiring new patients based on the satisfaction of existing and past patients.
While patient retention does have a great deal to do with the quality of clinical care you provide, it also has plenty to do with after-care, the overall ambience of the clinic and how you choose to do patient recall. The main difference between acquisition and retention is, at the end of the day, the same as the distinction between walking the walk and talking the talk.
Watch our expert's video on on finding out why patients are cancelling and what you can do about it
Running your own practice as a solo practitioner is very different from working in the NHS or joining another clinic. You cannot expect to learn everything about healthcare business management straight away so you should know where to go for support. Practice management systems can help you to gather the information you need to understand your performance, the patient experience and more. Always remember: prior preparation informs your future success.
Source: Private Practice Hub
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