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Opening a medical practice requires lots of planning and preparation, especially in today’s ever-changing healthcare industry. The good news is, this year is looking pretty great for the medical field — there have been a number of initiatives that range from research funding to incentives for setting up rural practices. And despite the effort and hard work that starting a medical practice entails, taking that leap can be an extremely rewarding experience and an incredible milestone in your career.
Read on to learn the essentials about setting up a medical practice, the things you need to keep in mind, and how the current government is investing into the healthcare industry.
The first thing you should have do when setting up a medical practice is a strategic, long-term business plan, at every stage of planning. This will ensure you succeed not only when it comes to patient care, but also in your long term profitability — remember that your practice needs to evolve constantly, alongside the healthcare industry. Also, don’t underestimate the business skills required — be mindful these have to extend from the management of the practice and all the way to planning, forecasting, marketing and the hiring of staff, whether medical or not.
Additionally, make sure you have enough capital to start with. It is estimated that in Australia, setting up a practice can range from $30,000 in regional areas to $200,000 in the metro areas — so be realistic about costs. These include the building lease, equipment and fitting, marketing, potential legal issues, tax, medical supplies, and day-to-day operational costs.
You should also do extensive research on Australia’s population distribution (you can find this info through the Australian Bureau of Statistics) — as this will define the characteristics of the patients you’ll attend. Being strategic about your practice location will allow you to leverage your position and maximise the growth of your clinic. Keep an eye out for ageing population — the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that by 2053, Australia’s aged population will be double than today’s.
Lastly, when it comes to your patients’ information, ensuring their personal data stays confidential is a ethical and legal responsibility. There’s been one too many data breach incidents already — your practice shouldn’t be next. Consider investing in an effective, cloud-based medical practice management systems with high security features.
If rather than setting up a medical practice from scratch you are purchasing and existing one, there’s a different set of things to keep in mind. First of all, you need to know exactly what assets you’re actually buying. You’ll need a commercial lawyer to guide you through the Sale of Business Agreement, however the basics you should expect to receive are, (a) goodwill (patient records, business reputation, repeat business of business, business name, business relationships), and (b) plant and equipment (such as medical equipment and furniture).
The contract should also feature a reasonable Restraint of Trade clause, which prevents the seller from setting up a new medical practice nearby. In addition, if you’ll take over the lease from the previous business owner, then you’ll need to establish if the landlord will allow the lease to be taken over by you and signed.
It’s important to stay constantly informed about the healthcare industry and the beneficial changes in legislation taking place. From July 28th, 2018, the Government will gradually lift the the four-year freeze on Medicare rebates, starting with GP and specialist consultations. This means less cost for either parties, and also means patients are encouraged to book a consult and not be dissuaded by the cost.
Moreover, under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and a Government’s deal with Medicines Australia, some medications will be reduced in cost — which translates into less costs for both clinics and patients.
You’ll also be glad to know that the current Government is also investing in the healthcare industry. If you feel like a change of scenery is due and wouldn’t mind leaving the big smoke behind, you could apply for the Rural General Practice Grants (RGPG) Program, where the Government has made available $13.1 million (GST exclusive) over a two-year period. The program will help improve rural health services through infrastructure and teaching.
The Government has also allocated $483 million in grants to support innovative Australian health and medical research projects, supporting 601 grants across four National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding schemes. Professor Paul Foster and Professor Peter Gibson from Newcastle are changing lives thanks to one of these schemes, having started the Cooperative Research Centre for Asthma and Airways, a $55 million government-backed program.
Last but not least, is important to always keep the medical code of conduct fresh in your head when considering setting up a medical practice. The code sets out the foundations that characterise good medical practice and outlines the standards of ethical and professional behaviour expected of doctors, both by their colleagues, and the community and patients.
By now you know all the aspects of setting up a medical practice. And while it may seem daunting at first (especially when it comes to thinking more like an entrepreneur than a physician), if you take your time and plan correctly, things should run smoothly. Remember, it’s all about being informed about the current developments into the healthcare industry, and how you prepare.
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