Where to start with your new private practice business strategy

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When you are establishing your new private practice, how do you ensure you set yourself up for success? It is hard to step back from your day-to-day activities and invest time in your new practice. Making sure your prospective patients receive the experience and environment you want to deliver, and they expect, requires careful thought and a solid strategy.

Your passion, values and vision are at the heart of why you are making this leap into private practice. So, how do you ensure these are understood and communicated to all your stakeholders, including potential referrers, and patients? Practically, have you covered all the elements to ensure your practice is ready to be launched to the public and your referrers?

The overarching desire is to attract new patients and referrers to your practice, but competition is fierce and with the increase in self-pay patients due to the post pandemic NHS waiting lists, your practice needs to be better than your peers to make sure you are forefront of mind and delivering an exceptional patient experience.

This is where Designated can help. Our team of experts can support you with your business strategy and plan for your practice. Utilising our experience in the industry along with our own service background, the team can help you to identify the strengths in your plans, and pinpoint the weaknesses, creating an opportunity to highlight and rectify any problems before they become ingrained.

Understanding you and your private practice

To really understand your clinic and aspirations, and for Designated to provide a comprehensive report of recommendations that identifies your ideal patients and referrers and ensures your brand messaging and values are communicated to all of your audiences and stakeholders – we recommend starting with our Designated Business Strategy Project.

This is based on a set of strategic questions which will identify your aspirations for your clinic across our private practice/clinic areas of expertise – Marketing, Accountancy, Patient/Referrer Experience, and Practice Management and processes.

From this process we can provide you with our observations and recommendations/guidance to help build your business plan and establish your new private practice.

Areas we cover:

  • Business objectives
  • Vision, Mission and Values
  • Service offering
  • Key target audience – patients and referrers
  • Reputation – Marketplace perception – how do you want to be identified?
  • Competitors
  • Patient experience
  • Practice Management

Tough read

We will be honest in our views, but these will come from experience and the will for you and your new private practice to succeed. Some of our observations may be a difficult read as it will enable you to uncover gaps that you were completely unaware of. The process and findings can feel quite personal as your new practice is your passion and vision. The key is to thoroughly evaluate the results and make changes to your plans where necessary.

The process will broaden your view of your plans for your practice, who your new patients and referrers are and how to find them and steer you away from assumptions.

If you would like to find out more about our Designated Business Review, please do get in touch:

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Chapter One – How to produce a medical practice strategy for setting up a private practice

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Writing down your medical practice strategy helps to formalise your thoughts into a structured approach, setting out your goals and objectives for setting up a private practice with a realistic timeline for launch and beyond.

An essential factor is how much time you can commit to setting up your new private practice. Establishing any new business demands the investment of a considerable chunk of time and energy in the earliest stages to launch it successfully. It is also good advice to set clear parameters about how much private work you want to do in the short and long term. If you plan to balance your NHS commitments with your new private practice, without clear boundaries, it is very easy to be overwhelmed.

The first part of your medical practice strategy will describe your ambitions for your practice, including your Vision and Mission statements. Articulating your objectives very clearly and setting timescales for each one is essential. You may choose to set out your five-year plan or feel this is too long-term, but we recommend at least a three-year plan including a financial plan.

Once you set your three-year objectives, you can work back to your one-year objectives and, finally, your three-month implementation plan, which will need to be very detailed, describing the tasks and activities that need to be undertaken. You may have set an unrealistic launch date for your practice once you articulate how much needs to be achieved before then.

The planning stage of your medical practice strategy

The planning stage of your medical practice strategy also provides an opportunity to identify the expertise and support that you will need. There may be areas where you need professional expertise, for example, from an accountant.

Other tasks may need to be delegated as you do not have the time to complete them. Starting to build a support team at this early stage will enable you to increase your business knowledge and help you to avoid problems down the line.

Your medical practice strategy must also detail the costs associated with setting up your private practice including the costs to launch successfully and the ongoing operational costs. Most consultants we meet plan to launch their new practice with minimal expenditure, but some real costs need to be understood and a budget assigned.

Many aspects of marketing, including the production of business cards and your website, will require a real financial investment. You may also need to commit a budget to clinic rooms that are not 100% utilised in the first few months as your practice builds up. Predicting these costs at the earliest stage will ensure you have the budget set aside and avoid unexpected invoices.

Attention to detail

Detailing your offering to patients is the most critical part of your medical practice strategy, as it will describe precisely who your patients are and what treatments you will offer them. Many doctors attempt to appeal to a vast audience of patients, offering a range of treatments.

Medical Practice Strategy - Setting Up Private Practice - Designated Medical

Still, experience has taught us that identifying and focusing on a niche is often more successful, especially in the short and medium term. Your marketing advisors will wisely talk about your Unique Selling Point (USP), and this is much easier to define when targeting a niche group of patients with a specific set of treatments.

Once you have described your offering, developing your marketing plan will be much easier, but more on that to follow in later chapters.

There are numerous systems, tools, and templates available on the internet, to help you formulate your business strategy and plan, and it is important to choose a structure that you feel comfortable with.

If you want more information about how Designated Medical helps our clients develop their medical practice strategy and guides them in setting up their private practice contact us

020 7952 1008

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Chapter Two – How to set up your new medical practice as a company

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Chapter Four – How to choose your Clinic Location

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Your greatest concern when choosing a clinic location will be to ensure that it delivers a five-star experience for your patients. Patients will need to feel that your clinic location is safe and clean and that the supporting services are of the highest quality. The location should be easily accessible by car or public transport and parking should be readily available.

From a practical perspective, a good clinic location should also be convenient for you, ideally easy to reach from your home and your NHS practice so that you can avoid spending too greater a proportion of your valuable time travelling.

Most consultants are clear about where they want to treat their private patients from the outset. This might be a private unit at their NHS hospital or a private hospital that they know well. The model of working that is most commonly used nowadays is to gain practising privileges at the chosen facility and to use consulting rooms on a sessional basis. This is cost-effective, and more clinic sessions can be included as patient demand increases.

If your objective is to create your own facility, then location will be a more complex decision. You will need to allow plenty of time for assessing the ideal location and then considering specific buildings in the proximity of the chosen location, ensuring they have the necessary consent for medical use.

For more guidance on obtaining practising privileges at your chosen location

How to gain practising privileges for your private medical practice

How to gain Insurance Company Recognition for your private practice

In private practice, you are likely to treat patients who are self-pay, insured and those sponsored by an embassy or another similar organisation. You can choose to treat only self-pay if that is your preference and in doing so you have more flexibility with your fee schedule as you can set your fees at a level you are comfortable with, of course ensuring that the fees are acceptable to your patients.

If you plan to treat insured patients, you will need to register with the insurance companies and follow the fee schedule you agree with them. Fortunately, a system for doing this centrally saves you from dealing with each insurance company separately. Healthcode provides a service called The Private Practice Register (PPR) which enables you to upload your documentation and apply for registration with most of the major insurance companies. Once your registration is approved you can also benefit from electronic billing via the Healthcode service.

Many doctors are concerned about working with embassies and it is fair to say that receiving payment promptly can be challenging with some embassies but not all. Generally speaking, it is possible to work well with embassies if you keep very tight control over approvals and payments. Before seeing a patient, you must get a Letter of Guarantee (LOG) in which the embassy gives you a guarantee that they will make payment for the services you provide. Once you submit your invoice to the embassy you may need to chase regularly to ensure payment is made. In our experience embassies will generally take longer to settle invoices than insurance companies so you need to be prepared for a delay.

How to invoice patients for your private practice

How to manage the administration of your private medical practice

Business operations is a term used to describe all the activities an organisation does each day, to keep running successfully. In healthcare, we tend to refer to operations as administration which possibly understates the importance and value of the activities involved. In your private practice, your operations will largely be centred around caring for your patients and delivering a high-quality patient experience. To achieve this you will need systems, processes, and a strong team.

Creating a solid plan for the administration of your practice from day one will ensure that you create strong foundations for the future as your practice grows. There are some key activities to consider: –

Telephones and call answering – Your patients need to be able to reach your practice. One of the biggest frustrations for patients is not being able to get through to speak to someone on the phone. You will need someone to reliably answer your calls for you and this is typically done by your Medical PA, whom you may wish to employ, or you may choose to use a Medical PA service. An important piece of advice is to ensure that you have a telephone number that belongs to you. Technically it should be possible to “port” your number to be answered wherever you choose but you must make sure that the number is registered to you from day one. Changing your telephone number part-way through your private practice career is painful and costly.

How to employ a Medical PA for your private practice

Practice Management System (PMS) – Many consultants start their practice without a PMS, usually to reduce costs, but if you are serious about your private practice then this is an investment that you should make. A good PMS will pay dividends in the efficiencies it brings to your practice and will help to ensure your patient records remain secure and that you are GDPR compliant. There are several PMS systems available and each one has pros and cons. For a deeper look at how to choose a PMS system please read the following article.

How to choose a Practice Management System for your private practice

How to work with a Medical PA in your private practice

In most private practices, a Medical PA is responsible for the day-to-day operations/ administration of the practice, and we would strongly argue that your Medical PA will have an enormous impact on the success of your practice. Your Medical PA will be the first point of contact for your new patients and will talk to your patients more often than you do. The relationship that a good Medical PA develops with your patients will make a big impact on your patient’s views of how good your practice is and will affect your reputation.

The role of your Medical PA is to manage the administration of your practice, including answering patients’ telephone calls and emails, and booking appointments and surgeries if relevant. Doing this well require great attention to detail and good communication skills with patients, hospitals, and other colleagues with whom you work.

For more detail on the role of the Medical PA read here

The role of a Medical PA in your private practice

At launch, the prospect of employing a Medical PA to support you may seem too costly. You may prefer to consider a Medical PA service where a company such as Designated Medical, provides you with an experienced Medical PA to support you and your patients. Our service provides you with a specific PA to work with you on an ongoing basis and is based on a virtual model of working. You choose a “package” of hours that meets your needs on day one with the ability to increase over time as your practice gets busier. For more details on our Medical PA service ….

A guide to the Medical PA service from Designated Medical

If you do decide to employ a Medical PA directly, and the cost is justified, then you will need to start your recruitment drive. Allow plenty of time, as it can take time to find the right person, and any applicants who are currently employed will typically need to give their current employer at least one month’s notice.

How to recruit a Medical PA for your private practice

When recruiting your Medical PA, a major consideration will be offering a salary that attracts a good calibre of candidates. For guidance on salaries for Medical PAs

Salary guide for Medical PAs in private practice

Need help setting up your private medical practice…

Get in touch and start your conversation today

020 7952 1008

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Chapter Five – How to invoice your patients in your private practice

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Chapter Five – How to invoice your patients in your private practice

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Like marketing, invoicing is an area that most doctors feel uncomfortable with when they enter private practice as it is an area that they are not familiar with. Most doctors dislike talking to patients about money and understandably so as their objective is to deliver great care.

But to succeed in private practice your patient invoicing needs to be managed well. On day one some doctors plan to manage their own invoicing or ask a family member to assist them. This seems like a good solution to keep costs at a minimum but as this is such a specialist activity there is a strong argument that paying for expert help pays dividends in the longer term. The first realisation for this usually occurs when a doctor realises how much bad debt they accumulated.

If you are looking for a sustainable solution to invoicing, you can employ a Medical PA who has experience in managing invoicing or engage a professional medical billing company. Whichever option you choose you need to ensure a thorough understanding of working with insurance companies and embassies and a strong focus on collecting payments.

There are several specialist medical billing companies to choose from and you should explore their credentials in detail before making your decision on whom to work with. Ask for references from other clients, check out what management reports you will receive each month and of course the fee structure. Most companies charge a percentage of the monies received. Check that the percentage is based on monies received and not monies invoiced. You do not want to be paying for invoices that are raised but not paid! If you have built up a degree of bad debt that needs collecting, you may pay a premium for this.

How to invoice your patients and ensure you get paid

How to manage the finances of your medical practice

You will have chosen the legal structure of your practice which has a direct impact on your financial responsibilities. For a sole trader or partnership, your responsibilities are relatively minimal, but they are far greater for a limited company with the need to submit annual accounts. Of course, your accountant will advise you, but you can do much to reduce your annual accountancy bill if you manage your finances wisely throughout the year.

Whichever structure you are using, your main concerns will be income and expenditure and you will need to keep accurate records of both. Initially, you may choose to do this using excel spreadsheets, but you should consider using a professional finance system such as Xero early in the development of your practice if not from day one. A good finance system will automatically link with your bank account and your practice management system reducing the time spent manually updating your records and so far less time-consuming and fewer errors. You should also check that your chosen accountant uses a good finance system to avoid costly manual bookkeeping.

How to choose an accountant for your medical practice

You may have chosen for your Medical PA or a professional billing company to manage your patient invoicing on your behalf. Whichever method you choose you should be able to download accurate reports from your practice management system (PMS) into excel or if you are using Xero, you can set up a direct link from most PMS systems.

Accounting and bookkeeping for your private practice

You must keep track of your expenses throughout the year. Many doctors spend money within their practice that they do not include in their expenses, and this costs them dearly in taxes. Your Medical PA or a bookkeeper can track your expenses for you and ideally you would review your expenses each month to ensure everything is being reported.

If you are an employer, you have additional responsibilities for payroll, national insurance, PAYE and pensions. Your accountant will advise you on this.

Need help with finances for your private medical practice…

Get in touch and start your conversation today

020 7952 1008

Read the next chapter >

Chapter Six – How to handle your Medico-legal responsibilities in your private practice

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Chapter Six – How to handle your Medico-legal responsibilities in your private practice

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Setting up any business requires taking on several responsibilities including legal and regulatory, and the private healthcare industry understandably requires more than most.

All businesses must ensure they are registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and adhere to the UK data protection regulations, following correct procedures to ensure data is held and managed securely.

Businesses within the private healthcare sector also have a responsibility to adhere to the measures introduced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which are particularly concerned about the availability of information to patients on consultant fees and the performance of consultants and private hospitals. The CMA has mandated that the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) publish performance and fee information about private consultants and hospitals and as a consultant, you will be required to provide this data to PHIN.

Did you know PHIN can help your practice meet legal requirements?

All doctors, working in private practice, are required to have medical indemnity insurance. There are numerous specialist providers offering appropriate policies but it is wise to check the small print thoroughly as this is a purchase decision where the cheapest may not be the best option.

You must also check if you need to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator of health and social care in England. The CQC state some regulated activities and if you are undertaking one or more of these activities you may need to register. If you have practising privileges at a private hospital that is registered with the CQC for regulated activities and is a designated body, you may be exempt.

If you do need to register with the CQC, be prepared for an involved process that can take several weeks to complete. The first stage is your CQC countersigned DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service), which may take eight weeks to arrive, but you cannot start your application until you have received this. Armed with your DBS, you can complete the application form, but this can take a full working day, so set plenty of time aside. The application process aims to check that the individuals involved are fit to provide the regulated activities and that the locations used are fit for the purpose.

All doctors in the NHS and in private practice must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). Revalidation is an ongoing process enabling the GMC to ensure doctors are fit to continue to practice. Revalidation follows a five-year cycle, but doctors must complete an annual appraisal and collate evidence on an ongoing basis to demonstrate they meet the necessary standards.

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You don’t need a diploma to run a practice

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Do you have an MBA? Perhaps a Diploma in Business Management?

If not, you’re in the same boat as the vast majority of doctors who decide to start their own private medical practice, which is, in fact, a complex business like any other.

Managing complaints, business development, systems and processes are all important aspects of practice management, but the two areas you absolutely must get right at the very start are: planning and people. So here is what you should start doing:

Strategic planning

Being clear on goals and ambitions for your practice will help you achieve them. Allowing regular time in the calendar to step back and look at the bigger picture will keep your business on the right track.

There are four steps to successful strategic planning:

  • Manage performance
  • Determine your position
  • Develop a strategy
  • Build your plan.

1. Manage performance
Taking this approach means you won’t miss any gaps. Ideally, garner input from anyone who contributes to the success of the practice and ensure that all your stakeholders are aware of your plan.

2. Determine your position
Like any other business, the leader of a medical practice needs business intelligence to survive. As the one in charge, it’s critical that you have access to executive information which shows analytics, forecasting tools and reports.

I suggest that you create a dashboard which shows the ‘big view’ of your business and allocate time to setting this up so that you will easily be able to access trends.

For example, you should be able to see at a glance the split between self-pay patients and those with insurance over the last six months and how it compares to the previous six months.

You should also look at what changes are coming in business or medicine. If your practice is dependent on international patients, is there a downwards drift for certain countries?

The more insight into strategic issues you can gather, the better your planning will be. Combine all the data you’ve pulled together and document it.
There are many business planning methods and tools that you can use, and each has its pros and cons. The format is that important; the key is to have a short statement that you can refer to and change over time.

3. Develop a strategy
This is something you probably did when you first set up your practice, but you need to keep repeating the process to ensure your practice continues to grow in the direction you want it to grow.

We are often asked to have a five-year plan, and while it is difficult to have clearly defined goals for five years, it is possible and valuable to have goals and objectives for the coming two years.

When thinking about the longer term, a business mentor advised me to think of ‘the view from the beach’. Imagine yourself in five years’ time relaxing on the beach and envisage what you would like to have achieved by that point.

How will your practice look? How will the finances look? This becomes your longer-term goals and allows you to focus very clearly on the next two years and what you need to do now to ensure your reach ‘that view from the beach’.

You may already have a long- term plan, but when did you last review it? Does it need amending?

Can you distil your practice ambitions into four to six long- term objectives? Is your financial forecast still accurate? Try to add as much clarity as possible so your goals and priorities are accurate.

4. Build your plan

This is the nitty-gritty – an operational plan that ensures your practice achieves what you want it to. It’s important that you work with your team to come up with achievable goals and that they have an opportunity to feedback on plans.

Depending on the size of your practice, you might choose to allocate goals to specific areas; for example, the administration team answers 85% of calls each week. What does success mean? An increase in patients or a decrease in patient complaints?

No matter the goal(s), make it as easy as possible to measure progress and keep on track by defining what success looks like and sharing it with the team.

Top Tips

Write down your plan including clear objectives. You might only need one piece of paper but record your plan and then book time in your diary to review it regularly, perhaps every three months.

Share the vision
Have you shared your long-term goals with the rest of your team? if they don’t know what you’re working towards, they can’t help you get there.

Consider your long-term vision: Take a quiet moment over a cup of coffee to contemplate your ‘view from the beach’.

Create a dashboard
Can you make use of the systems you already have in place to put together a dashboard? Excel combined with data from your practice management software might be more than enough.

Avoid jargon
No ‘key performance indicators’! You don’t have to use business language if it doesn’t fit with your practice. Reword internal documents and patient information if a more relaxed approach suits – e.g. ‘We will know we’re successful when…’

Look it up
The BMA provides a wealth of free information to support those working in private practice.

Attend events
That will remind you to take a broader look at your practice and your longer-term goals.

Make a date
Put dates in the calendar to review progress so you keep on track.

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December 2020 Edition of Stay Connected

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Welcome to the last edition of Stay Connected for 2020 and we are sure that many of you will agree that the last month of 2020 couldn’t come too quickly. With just a couple of weeks before the festive season and the slight easing of lockdown, we anticipate a busy period and we are fully committed to working with you to maximise this opportunity.

We want to say a huge thank you to all of you, our clients for your support and loyalty this year. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with you and your patients, and to play our part in delivering your patients a positive patient experience.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas. We hope that you and your “bubble” have a fabulous, but safe time celebrating and we look forward to working with you again in 2021.

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