Setting up your own practice

Setting up your own practice is hard work, with multiple responsibilities and relatively higher stress. Though the rewards of entrepreneurship outweigh the problems, one has to be prepared to live a largely fluid and uncertain lifestyle when one sets up a practice. This article offers a step-by-step guide for your reference.

Gain experience

Before you set up your own clinic, make sure you have sufficient working knowledge of the clinical procedures. You also need to hone your communication skills to succeed in setting up a great practice. Sometimes, clinical practice attained in college is inadequate to set up a clinic. So, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with regularly performed procedures in a clinic. Join short-term certificate courses, work under established practitioners, and upgrade your skills before setting up of your clinic.

Plan your finances

It is important to assess how much you can afford to spend on your clinic. Clarity on how much money can you borrow from your friends and family; personal savings; or bank is essential. Even if you take a bank loan, make sure the repayment terms are flexible, and the risk is measured. Create a budget. Based on this, decide if you want to use real estate available with your family (spare room or retail space), or want to rent a space in another location.

Finalize the location of your clinic

Based on your finances and available real estate, you can shortlist locations for your clinic. Other factors involved in deciding the location are:

  • Population density: Try to establish a clinic in residential areas or market where you can expect more footfall.
  • Social and economic profile: An understanding of the social and economic profile of the locality/ catchment area will help you decide the prices of the treatment. It also helps you understand their awareness and attitude towards dental procedures.
  • Competition: Setting up of clinics in upcoming areas with no existing dental clinics nearby can be profitable.

Plan your initial investments

Now that you have finalized the place, you need to plan the equipment and interiors of your clinic. Start by studying the competition, get into the shoes of the patients who will come to your clinic, and anticipate their expectations as you start planning the equipment and interiors of your clinic. If you have financial constraints, a good hack is to skimp on lesser-used equipment, or the ones that do not immediately attract patients’ attention. For interiors, make sure the furniture and fittings are durable and can withstand substantial wear and tear.

Get into the shoes of the patient

As you set up the clinic, imagine the journey of a patient who walks into your clinic. Consider the tasks that the individual would typically perform. Find out if there are any steps that can me removed or clubbed with others. It helps if patients don’t have to move around different sections of the clinic. Since patients and visitors will spend a large amount of time in the waiting area, make sure they have access to some source of entertainment (TV, magazines, etc.), and are comfortable (e.g., adequate cooling, availability of water). You may also want to check if the clinic has adequate power backup.

Choose who you’ll work with

Support staff contribute significantly toward running a great practice. Oftentimes they will be the ones standing by you when you work long hours, and will help you manage the clinic—right from throwing away expired medicines to making sure there’s drinking water available for patients. Look for a favorable temperament, dedication, and work ethic while interviewing them.

Get the papers in place

Create a checklist of approvals and other mandatory paper work. These may include: requirement of license, regulation related to staff employment, and authorization for the generation of bio-medical waste. In addition, make sure you buy professional indemnity insurance to protect yourself from any financial liability in case of error or negligence during treatment. You can also buy insurance for the equipment in your clinic, such as dental patient chairs and X-ray imaging equipment.

Set aside money for your working expenses

Working expenses include staff salaries, water bill, electricity bill, internet, TV, lab charges, supplies of the materials, etc. You should also have an emergency budget for seasonality in the business, or even that Diwali bonus for your staff. Try to save up for potential expenses such as the maintenance or a possible expansion of the clinic.

Make your presence felt

After you have set up your dream clinic, and made all arrangements, ask yourself: How will people know about me and my clinic? How will they find my clinic if they heard about it from someone? Start small. Make sure someone who Googles your name can find you and your details. Pin your location on Google maps. Add your phone number. List yourself on websites such as Practo and Justdial. Put up a billboard. Distribute your flyers at local medical stores.

Make the first few weeks count

Initial days in the clinic can be a bit frustrating due to lower patient flow. Use this time to market your clinic. Go to nearby setups and set up camps in offices, schools, and housing societies to spread awareness about dental health and about your clinic.

Don’t do it all yourself

Take up the cases which you are confident of. Patients usually sense if you sound under-confident or appear hesitant while performing any procedure. Do not try to experiment or try your hand at new things. A single bad feedback can tarnish your clinic’s reputation.

Build a network

Try to develop your network with other doctors, dentists, and specialists. People usually turn to medical professionals for references, and you should be on that list. Specialists and fellow dentists will also be able to help you professionally. You may also call some specialists if a complicated case comes to your clinic. This way, you will get a share of the revenue and also build stickiness with the patient.

Keep learning

Don’t drown yourself only in the activities of the clinic. Keep your skills and knowledge updated with newer and affordable advanced treatment modalities. You may also wish to polish your skills in specializations that you don’t have previous exposure to.

About the author

Dr. Shilpy Bhandari is a Hyderabad-based Periodontist and the founder of Dentistry Insider. She has worked extensively across dental clinics of all sizes — from large corporate chains to small, independent setups.

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