Top 5 tips to help you start out in private practice

Avant media

Monday, 24 May 2021

Private practice front desk

Moving into private practice is a steep learning curve. It can also be hard knowing who to ask for guidance, or even what questions to ask. So, to help you navigate your way, here are five tips from experts at our webinar on starting and succeeding in private practice. You can also access the webinar playback here.

1: Seek advice from peers, mentors and professionals

Whether you decide to join an established practice, or set up your own, the biggest cost is not doing your research, so speak with:

  • colleagues and mentors who have set up a practice
  • expert practice management consultants who do this daily
  • an experienced practice manager to discuss your ideas
  • other experts to get advice - lawyers, accountants, financial advisers.

Joining an established practice may save you time and money at first, but you could inherit the business’s debts, inefficient staffing, or poor systems and processes. Before joining a practice, interview the practice owners and manager for insights into their business vision and expenses. Speak with clinical and administrative staff to gauge the daily reality of practice operations.

Starting your own practice? Do some research and ask your accountant for benchmarks in your area. Remembering to include branding, signage and marketing, website, one receptionist, computers, software, and premises rental and fit-out.

2: Hire the right staff and create efficient practice processes

Staff are your greatest asset and your biggest expense, so invest in hiring a good team that aligns with your values and vision, to help you realise your business goals. Here are some tips for finding the best staff.

Poor processes can increase your risk. Open communication and detailed, written policies and procedures help manage high-risk areas like follow-up, recall and results. Ensure staff are properly trained in these as well as building the patient/practice relationship.

3: Work out what you’re worth

Back yourself and your training when working out the dollar value of your services. Can you highlight your points of difference that make your services worth what you charge?

Refer to the AMA schedule fees or ask colleagues a few years ahead of you how they decided on the fees in their practice, or what fees they negotiated when joining a group practice.

4: Know your responsibilities when marketing

Be careful what you say in your marketing and advertising, because patients will believe it. Ensure you can substantiate any claims you make about your services and stick to Ahpra’s advertising guidelines, so you don’t risk misleading patients. For example, patient testimonials on your website or comments on your Facebook page aren’t permitted.

Engage with your community to discover their needs and how you can meet them. It will inform your marketing focus. For GPs, consider a notice in local newspapers, or getting in touch with allied health and PHN organisations in the area. For a specialist, it may be your community of fellow health practitioners who can refer patients to you. Partnering with more experienced clinicians to take over their patients in the future and giving lectures could also help.

5: Keep on top of your Medicare billings

While it is a good idea to seek advice from your colleagues and mentors about which Medicare item numbers to claim, ultimately you are responsible for the services billed to Medicare using your provider number. Look up the item numbers on MBS Online for the most up-to-date requirements and information. Also, while practice staff can help you with administrative tasks, you should be in control of what you claim.

Your documentation needs to substantiate what you’ve billed. Having evidence that shows your billing instructions is your best defence in the event of a Medicare audit. Creating a written process and policy for billing is another way to protect yourself. See more in Avant’s Medicare Compliance factsheet.

These are some things you need to consider – for more insights watch our webinar, Thriving not surviving: moving into private practice.

For more advice and support, visit our Avant Learning Centre or call Avant on 1800 128 268.

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