Taking your first steps into private medicine can be exciting, but also a little daunting. Here’s how to start well, to avoid feeling overwhelmed when setting up.
It helps to remember that many people have started out where you are now – at the beginning – and have gone on to build thriving practices.
You can too. Think back to a time when you started a new hospital post, perhaps as a junior, and you felt a little bit lost, trying to figure out who did what and when. You might well be feeling the same way at the start of your private practice journey. In the past you would have had seniors to turn to, but now that you are ‘all grown up’ there’s sometimes a feeling of loneliness, particularly during the first few clinics you hold, which may be sparse on patients. You might look around you and feel a little in awe, maybe even intimidated, by the powerful ‘practice machines’ of other long-established Consultants around you. Have faith, and try not to worry.
Every thriving practice started out with just a single patient.
Take heart in remembering that starting small means you have the time and opportunity to really mould things they way you want them to be. Some ‘old timers’ can be set in their ways, and may not have embraced the digital world to connect with patients or improve admin efficiency. You on the other hand can learn to be admin savvy, quick to respond, and ninja efficient.
Well-meaning colleagues around you may wish to encourage you to adapt their working methods, and whilst having a mentor is a great idea, resist the urge to simply replicate a traditional paper-heavy NHS model of working. Instead, encourage a mindset that spurns paper, and encourages electronic communication. It’s cheaper, faster, and patients love it. Why try to go uber paper light? Whilst it isn’t entirely possible to eliminate paper from your clinical world, it is very possible to contain and discourage it, and to rapidly convert it into a digital format. This can have huge cost savings, both monetary, and also in terms of time. Let’s imagine for instance, that you’ve been used to working with paper notes for all your clinic consultations and day cases. Every time you hold a private clinic session, patient files have to pulled from some kind of storage system, results have to be gathered and inserted, and if the clinic is big, this could easily take half a day of administrator’s time. And there might still be crucial documents missing! This is an unnecessary squandering of valuable, and expensive secretarial time, which could be spent far more efficiently elsewhere. Software for managing practice notes, which is compatible with portable devices is widely available.
Now is the ideal time to go paper cold-turkey and get started with a fully digitized system.
Those right brainers and doodlers amongst you may give out a cry of ‘Oh, but I like to write things down’. That’s fine too, provided you are then willing scan in your notes. This can be super easy with desk top, flip top scanners that can be set up to scan directly into patients’ notes, but this is still an extra step you could try to eliminate. Dictation isn’t just for letters, it can be for notes too, and many Consultants will use their clinic letter to colleagues as the clinic record itself. Need to add a little update on a patient after a post-theatre ward round? It’s easy to add a date-stamped note with a couple of lines of tying into the digital patient record. There’s also no hassle about having to drop files back off in the secretary’s office before you leave, and no danger of leaving them in the changing room, or on the fast train to Seven Oaks. Even if you are obliged to enter information into paper hospital notes when a patient is admitted, these can still be rapidly scanned upon discharge, giving you a complete and contemporaneous copy of their stay on the ward.
If you still need a convincer about stepping over from the paper dark-side…
..and into the digital light, remember that an IT-secure practice has the potential to be accessed from anywhere on the planet that gives you internet access. This can be really liberating for you and your team around you, as it can cut down on unnecessary back and forth emails and phone calls, and it helps remove barriers to patient care. Anyone can learn to use good management software – yep, that means you too. So take the plunge, and start your super successful practice on the digital (not ‘write’) foot.
Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in building our practices – from a business perspective, as well as a clinical one.
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