You’re a doctor. You’ve held your medical degree in your hand, did your internship, worked at a general hospital or under a senior at a private primary care facility for years. Now you are finally ready to start your own practice.
You have an idea of what’s needed, but now you’re an administrator as well as a medical practitioner. You turn to your old boss, who is kind enough to offer you some advice. He gives you a list. You look at it and it contains these items.
1. Physical Equipment
No doctor’s practice would be worthy of the title if it did not have its unique, specialist equipment that even a child would recognise it by.
- Blood pressure monitor
- Reflex hammer
- Blood test kits
- Pulse oximeter
- Eye chart
- Resuscitation bags
- Oxygen masks and canisters
- Foil blankets
- Trauma board
- Hypodermic needles
- Paper towels
- Glucose analyzers
- Chemical analyzers
- Urine analyzers
- Cold storage for samples
- Face masks
- Autoclave - This is used to clean and sterilize medical equipment
- X-ray machine
- Ultrasound machine
- Fetal monitoring machine
No doctor’s office would be complete without furniture and appliances for the reception and private staff areas. In addition to all of this, you are going to need storage cabinets, janitorial items and disinfectants, medical stands and carts to hold and transport all of these pieces of equipment to different areas of your office. As a doctor setting up a new practice, some of this equipment may not be absolutely necessary as you can use several of the larger, more expensive pieces at a nearby hospital. Once you can purchase though, it may be better to have your own equipment as you can increase your income that way.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. As your practice grows and develops, your equipment needs will change.
2. Special documentation
Beyond your physical equipment, you need permission to carry out your practice and protection for it. Ensure that you acquire all special licenses that you may need. As you are on your own now, you may need documentation beyond your individual license to practice. Research what these are.
Medical malpractice suits are a sad reality of being a doctor. It is necessary to have malpractice insurance to protect your business if you are sued.
You should also acquire some personal insurance for yourself and find out if your insurance company offers a comprehensive employee plan for anyone working with you.
As far as possible, you should make sure that your practice is legally compliant. Be aware that these criteria change often, so you should take time to keep up to date.
This is the area of your business that you are least likely to be familiar with, but your doctor’s office needs someone to answer your calls, make your appointments and get medical supplies. You also need someone to do your accounting, pay the practice's bills and keep track of patients’ records. Don’t forget, someone has to be outfront to greet patients and manage the flow of appointments from day to day. Clearly, you can’t do all of this and be a doctor.
You have several alternatives. You can hire a medical administrative assistant. Depending on the size and nature of your practice, you may have more than one. You can have a firm hire that person for. You can outsource all of the administrative functions to companies that specialise in medical administration. You can also hire firms that keep and maintain your records and buy software to manage your financial records.
4. Determine what you’ll charge for your services
As a newly independent medical professional, you must decide what you’ll charge for your services. Here, a balance must be struck between what your competition is charging, what your patients can afford and what you personally want to earn. Take advice from any association journals you read on the subject as well.
Do not underestimate the power of a good location to build your practice. Ideally, you should be located where there are not too many professionals offering your service and where the customers you want live.
The cost of the property should also be taken into consideration. You don’t want something you can’t pay for with the income your practice generates.
6. Banking and Tax compliance
Your medical practice is a business and should have separate accounts from your own. Open an account for your business activity. Your practice also needs an Federal Tax Identification Number or an Employee Identification Number. This is how the IRS will be able to identify you for tax purposes. Research any other taxes you may have to pay at the local and state level.
7. Work out office roles and protocols
Once your practice acquires employees, you have to set out an organizational chart outlining everyone’s duties and how they relate to each other. Superior and subordinate relationships should be clear on this chart.
Everyone should be clear on what expectations are and potential consequences if they are not met.
Your practice should have clear protocols to deal with biohazards, emergencie and security threats.
You should also have a benefits programme for your employees.
8. Marketing for your practice
It would be a shame to go through this trouble to acquire all these things for your practice and then you don’t tell anybody about it.
Social media gives you inexpensive ways to reach your potential patient demographic. You can combine it with more traditional forms of advertising.
You may also want to consider some community work and for a limited time, or for a few hours every week as an ongoing feature of your practice. People will become aware of your presence and services and will likely pay for them in the future.
Opening your own practice as a medical practitioner is quite a milestone. Make it even more of a triumph by getting the correct equipment, documentation and support that you need.