How long does it take to build a Private Medical Practice?

Feb 07, 2022

One question we get asked a lot is how long will it take to build my private medical practice?

There's no doubt that the number of Doctors looking to work in private medical practice are on the rise. Many GP's, consultants and other health care professionals are abandoning full time NHS practice medicine in droves, looking to take back control of their own lives and destinies. But how long does it take to build a successful private practice? Actually, it depends on a variety of factors. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the key considerations you need to make when planning your own private medical practice. So if you're itching to take the leap, read on!

Remarkably, particularly for hospital consultants, it is actually quite predictable. Around 3-5 years. How it that so? Well, if you are working as an NHS consultant then there will be a proportion of your NHS patients who will have private medical insurance, and these patients will seek you out as they look to bypass the NHS waiting lists for treatments and procedures you offer. So, providing you are able, available and affable, what we refer to as the three A's of private medical practice, then you should have a stable private practice income of around 50K in year one. Don't forget to check out our article on what makes a successful private practice and the importance of the three A's. 

As you become more well known, you start to see last year’s patients as follow ups, and if you are lucky, you receive the endorsement of a senior colleague to the local GP community as he/she retires fully, then that compound effect will steadily grow your practice, something in the region of 75K in year 2 and 100K in year 3. However there comes a point where many consultants’ practice simply stagnates, usually around that level.

Why? - because they have not developed their business at all and have relied on sitting back and waiting for patients to come to them, they become institutionalised, often effectively managed by a local private hospital chain who give them a once a year "opportunity" to present a webinar to the local GP's and a mention in some of their digital marketing. The result - apathy, burnout, boredom, stress and frustration.

For GP's, most of them do not even think private medical practice is even possible for them so do not even start. Doctors need to start thinking of themselves as valuable, highly skilled professionals and take control back over their own careers, business offering and value.

Here are 5 key steps to building and controlling your own private medical practice fast

Step 1: Create time

Negotiate and create time in your job plan or free days to see private patients - set aside one or ideally two sessions a week, even if only for an hour. Separate these sessions so you can see patients with the results of investigations and tests in a timely fashion in the second session. Be clear with the admin staff that these times are sacrosanct and you will not be interrupted. By having consistent, protected and ideally day time hours time for your business, even if you are not seeing patients initially you can spend time on writing blogs, website development, pathways and relationships.

Step Two: Do not waste your money on other people when you start out

Many GP's and consultants make the mistake of spending their hard-earned money on marketing firms, business cards, websites that are not fit for purpose. They then find themselves out of pocket with little to show for it. When starting your own private medical practice, you need to be shrewd and spend your money in a way that will bring you revenue and more importantly control. The only thing you need is a supremely efficient online booking system and a highly trained virtual PA process so that every call is answered from 8am-8pm immediately and with a trained person able to understand the patients’ needs and book them in there and then. Not calling them back, or "I will ask Dr X and get back you". They will be gone and booked into see someone else. Unless you understand every inch of your business you will not know when things go wrong - for example the secretary you share hasn’t done your billing or even answered your calls because she also works for a more senior colleague!

Step 3: Use technology to your advantage

In our course we go on and on about technology, but the simple fact is the doctors who have a fully online booking system and responsive call handling process and collect feedback consistently etc are those that will be the winners. You have to have a basic grasp of digital marketing, SEO, Ads, writing Blog articles and more, otherwise you will plough cash into campaigns with no relevance to your services. Agencies are very willing to take your cash, but unless you are producing content, know you market segmentation well and hold them accountable you will be wasting your money. So many Doctors do not take the time to upskill in key business and marketing areas, so set themselves up to fail. Our partners at Heydoc often say that Doctors buy their product without even looking at it because they think it will be their PA using it not them. By forgetting that the practice management system is probably the biggest tool to develop and grow their business, how can they expect to succeed!

Step 4: Own your own patients

Many private hospital chains lure doctors (including GP's) to work with them with the offer of "taking the calls" and "booking the appointments". These doctors think that they are going to be presented with a full clinic and then wonder why they see 2 patients a week for years. Doctors need to reverse the narrative, and facilitate patients booking directly with them, then provide the hospital with the clinic list the day before. Create a patient pathway and service that is faster, better and more patient centred than the hospital's. You will be surprised once you are busy how you can negotiate the things you need - longer clinic times, better operating times etc. This is because you are in control. If you are a GP working in a private hospital chain, then it is unlikely you will be able to develop your services, unless you are in a very forward-thinking organisation like BUPA (disclaimer alert - I work within BUPA!). Remember, if a third party if booking patients on your behalf chances are you will not be able to grow your business quickly. You need to think of yourself as a business owner and running a business does not mean letting some else do it for you – badly.

Step 5: Define your scope of practice precisely

One of the quickest ways to lose patients is to offer services that you are not competent in. When starting out, it is important to be clear about the services that you provide and what you do not and build this into your marketing strategy. This will help prevent any confusion and ensure that your patients know exactly what it is that you can offer them.

It is also important to bear in mind that being a competent practitioner is not always enough. You need to be able to prove it, so keep track of your successes and document them as they happen. Feedback is probably the best way to confirm to potential patients that you are the Doctor to see.

Why is feedback so important?

Patient feedback is very important for the success of your business. Not only does it help people to gain confidence in you, but it also helps them to find out more about how you can help them overcome their medical issues and what they should expect from your services. If a patient has not had any experience with private healthcare before then they may be looking for some reassurance, so having as much information about your services will help them to make an informed decision. Remember you might be quite proud of the fact that you are a femoracetabular impingement specialist, but patients want to see a doctor who treats a niggling hip pain, so think about the way you market yourself to patients and use language and condition specific terminology they can understand. Blog posts can be a good way of communicating with your patients.

Steps to collecting patient feedback:

Ask the same questions of all patients - this way you can collate and analyse the data more efficiently. We like using Doctify and iwantgreatcare. Doctify have a great widget for your website and iwantgreatcare has a certificate of excellence they award each year which validates your great care (if you win one!)

So in summary, it takes hard work, time but little investment to build a successful private medical practice quickly. But with the right tools, skills, and approach it can be done!

Do you want to create a fully booked private medical practice without working any evenings or weekends? 

With over 50 on-demand videos, templates and guides, our on-demand course covers everything from:

  • how to navigate CQC registration and fast-track your practicing privileges
  • detailed walkthrough of how to create your own website and embed an automated appointment system
  • how to get patients through the door without spending money on advertising
  • how to project your revenue and costs and maximise your profits
  • and much, much more

We look forward to seeing you there!

Giles and Tom

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