Medical practitioners who take the time to plan well, secure appropriate funding and remain flexible and teachable in response to the fluctuating climate of the healthcare sector will reap the benefits of long-term success. This blog is designed to help you through this process by providing a guideline of things to take into consideration as you embark on this journey.

It takes years of education and experience to become a doctor. Now it’s time to add your own personal touch and move towards owning your own medical practice. Starting a medical practice can be an exciting achievement and incredibly rewarding. However, this new journey does have its challenges, hardships and costs.

To navigate to and read about a specific section, click on a topic below:

  1. Build Your Business Plan
  2. Financial Planning
  3. Registrations and Legislation
  4. Renting vs Buying
  5. Get Insured
  6. Building a Brand
  7. Roles and Responsibilities
  8. Smart Software

1. Build Your Business Plan

Let’s start strong by building a firm business plan. This will help form your practice’s foundation so you know exactly what your vision is and how you will achieve it. See it as a guide that will help you through each stage of starting and managing your practice. 

There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan nor do you have to stick to an exact outline. Whether you are detail-oriented or prefer quick summaries, use sections that best suit your preferences. Answer the following questions to help you build your business plan: 

  • Who are you and what do you do – your vision? 
  • How will you finance your practice and how will it generate profits? 
  • How will your practice structure look like? 
  • Which resources will you be investing in to increase practice efficiency? 
  • What is your marketing strategy and how will you go about your brand awareness and referral network?
  • Why should patients choose you over your competitors?

2. Financial Planning

Time to get your finances in check and build your financial plan. From your business plan, this is the part where you’re going to ask yourself: “How will I finance my practice and how will it generate profits?” 

As you are working on your financial plan it’s important to consider repayments in your cash flow and expense forecast. There are different sources of financing options: 

  • Traditional banks and any other financial institutions, 
  • A medical practice financing specialist, or
  • Private investors. 

Your medical practice is a business just like any other. It’s registered to make a profit and have direct and indirect costs to deliver services. You need to be aware of the income potential of the patients in your area, which includes the type of healthcare you’ll be providing. 

Before you start with your practice’s finances, it’s advisable to open a bank account specifically for your practice. This will help manage your finances in an organised way – by keeping your personal separate from your business.

3. Registrations and Legislation

As a practitioner with their own medical practice, you need to comply with a few national and governmental requirements. Here are the two main ones:

Health Professions Council in South Africa (HPCSA):

“The HPCSA, in conjunction with its 12 Professional Boards, is committed to promoting the health of the population, determining standards of professional education and training, and setting and maintaining excellent standards of ethical and professional practice. 

In order to safeguard the public and indirectly the professions, registration in terms of the Act is a prerequisite for practising any of the health professions with which Council is concerned. 

The Council guides and regulates the health professions in the country in aspects pertaining to registration, education and training, professional conduct and ethical behaviour, ensuring continuing professional development, and fostering compliance with healthcare standards. All individuals who practise any of the health care professions incorporated in the scope of the HPCSA are obliged by the Health Professions Act No. 56 of 1974 to register with the Council. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence.”

You can visit the HPCSA website for more information. 

Board of Healthcare Funders of South Africa (BHFSA): To accelerate payments of accounts from Medical Schemes and the Road Accident Fund, you’ll need a PCNS number from the BHFSA as a practitioner, practice or agency. 

You will be required to pay a registration fee as well as completing a registration form upon which you will receive a practice number. This practice number will be attached to all your communications. If you wish to require more information, visit the BHFSA website

4. Renting vs Buying

Are you thinking of starting your medical practice from scratch? Or are you taking over from another practitioner, and/or renting? Each option has its own pros and cons, so take your time to process and analyse which option will work best for you, fits your budget and location preference. 

Renting a space for your practice is generally a multi-year financial commitment where the cost of renting can vary from area to area and from metre to metre. On the other hand, to open your own medical practice can be a costly endeavour. 

Either option requires you to convert this space into a doctor’s office. So you can expect some of these expenses in the conversion process: 

  • Construction and Renovations, 
  • Equipment, Appliances and Disposable supplies, 
  • Telecommunications and Software, 
  • Furniture and Decor, 
  • Security, 
  • Parking facilities, and
  • Disability friendliness.

The location plays an important role as well. There are two aspects to keep in mind: 

  • Foot traffic: Your location needs to be easily accessible and close to public transport points, schools and businesses. This will ensure that you receive a maximum of foot traffic and a continuous stream of new prospective patients. 
  • Referral network: Choose a location where you can build your brand and awareness. Ensure that you are in the area of your referral network to make logistics easier. 

5. Get Insured

All medical practitioners need to have protection by means of medical malpractice insurance. Being in a high-risk profession, medical professionals need to be insured so that they can protect themselves against claims and limit their exposure to costs and damage to reputation. 

Here is a quick list of various types of legal protection that you can apply for: 

  • Medical malpractice insurance: This option reduces your financial risk during a lawsuit against you or your treatment or practice. 
  • Product liability insurance: This option reduces your financial risk during a lawsuit arising from the nature or condition of any product you use in your practice or treatment. 
  • Public liability insurance: This option reduces your financial risk during legal action against physical injury and/or damages as a result of, or allegedly caused by you. This also includes an extension of wrongful arrest. 
  • Professional indemnity insurance: This option reduces your financial risk during legal action arising from breaching professional duties, breach of warranty of authority or of trust in good faith, destruction of, damage to, loss of any documents entrusted. 

Prevention is better than the cure. A high-quality practice management platform will give out a butterfly-effect. It will reduce your practice’s risk factor and in turn, reduce your insurance premiums costs. It ensures security over your patient’s personal information from getting lost or being captured incorrectly.

6. Building a Brand

Launch your medical practice for success: 

  • Develop a logo and marketing material, 
  • Create a letterhead, 
  • Create a business card, 
  • Develop a website, and
  • Plan your grand opening.

There are various ways of getting your brand out there, but going online is usually the first place most people go to, to find something these days. BUT don’t dismiss other marketing platforms such as phone books, newspapers, flyers, etc.

When you do focus more on the digital side of things, working smarter will be the way to go:

  • Make it easier for people to find you by improving your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for keywords related to your practice, 
  • Keep improving and optimising your website to build trust in patients, 
  • If you choose to post on social media platforms, stay consistent and engaged with potential patients as well as staying within the privacy requirements.

7. Roles and Responsibilities

Making sure that you build a practice that can grow. As you grow, you need to think about the following roles and responsibilities for you and/or your staff/team:

Your staff/team is an investment and can take a lot of pressure off you – giving you the opportunity to focus on what you love to do: TREATING YOUR PATIENTS! 

8. Smart Software

Running a patient-centric practice is your main aim! Here are a few factors that will have a significant impact on your business: 

  • Financial management,
  • Administrative management,
  • Clinical note-taking, searching and reporting.

Key Features of Smart Software:

*See link to HPCSA Guidelines.

Select a software partner that automatically stays abreast with industry standards and laws. Practice management software with a patient portal is an essential investment and one that is hosted in the cloud and can scale with your practice’s growth is a bonus. 

Choose software that strives to include the latest technology and developments like facial recognition and voice to text technology.

To End Off

Throughout this journey of opening a medical practice, you will learn the skill of patience. It takes time to build a solid plan and implementing it. There will be unplanned challenges ahead but take it as a learning curve, it takes time to establish yourself as a medical professional. Invest in yourself and your practice to ensure success. 

All things aside, remember to set your focus on your patients. Patient-centric care should be at the heart of your practice and by doing so, your medical practice will grow in the long-term.