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12 Things To Know When Setting Up Your Private Medical Practice

By Medinex Team

Nov 2023

 

Starting up your private medical practice and clinic can be both exciting and challenging. 

As you are planning to fulfill your vision of providing your unique brand of medical and healthcare service, there are things that you would like to take into consideration for a smooth clinic set up.  We have highlighted 12 important things that should be on your ‘must-do’ list: 

 

  1. Incorporation of Clinic Business 
  1. Open A Bank Account  
  1. Search for Clinic Location 
  1. Medical Equipment Acquisition  
  1. Apply for Accreditation with Private Hospitals 
  1. Get into Insurance Panels 
  1. Renovation of Clinic Space 
  1. Procurement of Drugs 
  1. Set Up Clinic Management System ( CMS ) 
  1. Employment and training of Clinic Staff 
  1. Purchase Insurance for Clinic Space and Staff 
  1. Designing your Clinic Logo and Marketing your Healthcare Services 

 

Incorporation of Clinic Business 

You must first register and incorporate your new clinic business with the government agency ACRA.  Choose a business name or brand name that reflects the nature and vision of your clinic business.  Use short, easy-to-remember, relatable name.  Avoid words like ‘National’, ‘Temasek’, ‘Singapore’, etc. which are protected by law or reserved for government bodies.  You are to seek the approval of MOH when apply to use your business name containing words such as ‘clinic’, ‘surgery’, ‘medical’, ‘dental’, etc.   

Also, avoid words which are vulgar or with negative connotations.  Using a business name that is similar in structure to existing registered names may not be approved by ACRA too. You can check whether your desired business name has already been registered through the ACRA’s ‘BizFile+’ portal. 

 

Open A Bank Account 

Starting up your clinic requires not only personal investment of time, expertise but also financial resources.  Sometimes, the upfront expenditure outlay on clinic renovation, general working capital, practice acquisition, drug procurement and medical equipment can be quite daunting for a start up clinic.  For that reason, it is critical in finding yourself a reliable banking partner who can help you ease off some of the financial stress during the first few years of the clinic start up by extending to you loans designed for the healthcare business.  Some banks can offer ‘set up loans’ as high as $300k to help new clinic ease into its practice. 

 

Accreditation with Private Hospitals 

For private medical practitioners who need to admit patients and perform surgeries, it is imperative to get a valid and current specialist accreditation with major hospitals such as the Parkway Hospitals ( ME Orchard, ME Novena, Gleneagles, PW East ), Thomson Medical Centre, Raffles Hospital and Farrer Park Hospital, Mt Alvernia Hospital, etc. 

You will need to submit the necessary medical certifications and documents to the hospitals’ respective Medical Affairs Department ( or equivalent ) for vetting and approval by the credential committee, or the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) committee.  Different hospitals have their guidelines on accreditation of doctors – for example in the case of medical specialists, some hospitals would require a minimum of 5 years as a Consultant in specialization practice before accreditation is granted. 

The process of getting accreditation usually takes about 3 months upon completeness of an application.  Some hospitals approve the application within a shorter time, thus it is advisable to plan this in advance before commencing your practice. 

 

Clinic Location 

Selecting the right clinic location is to reach out to the right patients or clients ( also called your ‘target market’ ).  Your clinic location reflects your healthcare service’s vision and to provide the appropriate healthcare for your patients. 

The amount of traffic that a location generates is important for a clinic, and especially so for a newly established clinic.  Some hospitals and medical centres offer Doctors’ Network Services or have Patients Assistance Centre that provide referrals for doctors in support of their practices. 

Rental of clinic space is also one of the main considerations for new clinics.  There is a vast difference in rentals for locations that are outside of CBD areas and those right in the middle of the commercial districts or major shopping belts.  For example, rental of clinic spaces in the city centre may be in the upward of $30 psf while those in residential areas may only be a fraction of it. 

While the prestige and the aura of location is a valid consideration, it is important also to balance it with the objectives and financial goals ( which we will discuss in a future post ) of your clinic. 

 

Medical Equipment Acquisition 

Medical equipment procurement may be one of the largest expenditure items in clinic set up, other than the clinic renovation cost.  Depending on the specialization, medical equipment may range from a few thousand dollars per unit to the upward of a few hundreds of thousand per unit.  Thus, spending time in selecting the right equipment with the appropriate service and maintenance contracts is something worth doing as it impact your clinic operating profits.  Some local banks offer ‘Medical Equipment Loan’ for clinics during their start up to assist in defraying initial investment expenditure. 

In addition, medical equipment must be licensed by HAS.  Doctors who are operating equipment such as ultrasound apparatus should possess license from NEA too. During pre-operation clinic inspection, MOH officers will have to be presented with the current licenses and certificates before the clinic can commence using the equipment. 

 

Clinic Space and Operation 

As the clinic is a purpose-built space to dispense healthcare services, guidelines have been laid out by HSA on the hygiene and operational aspects for a functional clinic.  MOH Officers would check on some of the following during the clinic’s pre-operation inspection: 

Firstly, the floors of treatment room/s in a clinic must not be laid with carpet or fibrous materials – this is to aid ease of cleaning and prevent spreading of infection or microbial growth within the space.  At least a sink, disposable hand-towel device, hand-soap dispenser must be installed in the treatment room.   The clinic should engage vendor to dispose of bio-hazard waste – such as gauze dressings, sharps, syringes, one-time-use devices, etc.                                                                                                                                                   

Secondly, the lighting level of the treatment room must be adequately bright to allow the doctors to see details of the surgery areas.  Generally, ambient lighting level in the surgery room should be around 1,000 lux while the focused surgery and treatment areas should be around 100,000 lux lighting level using surgery lighting apparatus.  However, brighter general lighting may not always be better as achieving the right lighting contrast is the gist in providing sustained visual comfort and reduction of visual fatigue. 

Thirdly, there should be provision of an ‘Emergency Trolley / Box’ which comprises of drugs, resuscitation device, infusions, syringes, dressings, etc. as required by MOH. 

Lastly, the clinic should be adequately spacious for the type of specialization treatment that is being performed.  Walking space around treatment beds/chairs should be minimally 1.2m for ease of movement.   Clinic signage should also be prominently displayed when the clinic is in operation. 

 

Procurement of Drugs 

Dispensation of drugs is one of the key activities in your clinic operation.  Drug procurement is also a large cost component of your clinic set up.   For a start, you will need to set up an account with drug vendors to be on board their procurement systems.  Next, you will need to prepare a drug list and check on drug bonus and tiered-pricing policies from drug vendors to get the best quantity-price mix for your drugs. 

Another consideration is whether you would like to procure original ( branded ) drugs or generic ( non-branded ) drugs.  Prices of generic drugs are usually only a fraction of the prices of original drugs – again, you must manage to balance between the prestige of using branded drugs and the costs of your operations. 

 

Set Up Clinic Management System ( CMS ) 

Modern clinics often rely on networked database systems known as Clinic Management System ( CMS ) to manage their patients’ medical information and health status data to assist doctors in making accurate diagnoses and thus prescribing efficacious treatments. 

CMS’s such as PLATO and CLINIC ASSIST are commonly used by clinics in Singapore with user’s cost ranging between $180 to $250 per doctor per month, depending on their type and specifications. 

As the CMS is a patients’ registry containing their case notes, treatment history, radiology records, billing records, laboratory tests reports, etc., you will need to train and appoint a staff to manage the CMS and to keep its functions and data up to date.   

 

Clinic Staff 

Getting the right staff is critical to the smooth operating of your clinic.  You should on board your staff at least 2 weeks before your clinic begins as they must be familiar with your clinic’s inventory, the CMS and workflow. 

External HR services may be required to assist you in searching for potential clinic staff and prepare their employment contracts.  Depending on the scale and range of services you are providing, you will need to decide whether to hire Clinic Assistant ( CA ), Staff Nurse or Enrolled Nurse based on their experience. 

 

Renovation, Insurance for Clinic Space and Staff 

Unless you buy over a fully furnished clinic, most new clinic set-ups would require full or partial renovation.  Depending on the styling of the clinic space, you may have to set aside between $100 to $150 per sq foot on renovation, and this excludes the medical equipment procurement.  It is important that you engage spatial designers and contractors with relevant experience to manage your clinic set up. 

Purchase of Fire Insurance for your clinic space is imperative as you will be operating with electrically charged equipment.  You can obtain a list of fire insurance coverages from most insurance agencies. 

Purchase of Insurance Policies such as WICA for Staff ( WICA – Workplace Injury Compensation Act ) ensures that there is sufficient coverage for your staff and yourself, especially when your clinic often performs surgeries, operation procedures, or heat-generating equipment. 

 

Insurance Panels 

Becoming accepted into the panels of major Insurance Agencies or Insurers makes your clinic more attractive to customers who have purchased insurance coverages with them.  With the right policies in place, patients may be able to claim full or partial fees amount on the medical treatments they received. 

Insurers usually will require specialist doctors to have a continual practice period of at least 5 years before being considered as panel doctors.  Again, you will need to prepare medical certificates and appropriate documents to apply to the Agencies’ boards. 

 

Designing Your Business Logo & Marketing your Healthcare Services 

Creating your clinic logo will be the next thing to consider.  A visually captivating and ‘sticky’ clinic brand logo helps to form emotional and cognitive connections with your target audience.  Good, positive brand name and logo build trust and loyalty with your clinic’s business faster.  Appointing an experienced graphic designer or studio can help you conceptualize and materialize your clinic brand and ensuring that the brand logo can be applied effectively across all media and marketing platforms such as signage, website, letterheads, carriers, stationery, printed collaterals, publications, social media, etc. 

The Singapore Medical Council has clear and established guidelines on marketing and advertising activities that private clinics are allowed to carry out.  Advertisement and promotional messages should not be laudatory, exaggerating or simply false as these would tarnish the reputation of the medical profession.   

Currently, digitally based marketing platforms are becoming very popular among the medical profession as they can extend a wide reach within a relatively short span of time.  With a well-tempered website search profile, clinics can be made more ‘searchable’ by potential patients and thus enlarge the clinic’s market base in the long run. 

Depending on your practice, you should deploy diverse formats of marketing platforms – traditional and digital – to help you reach your target patients.  Marketing spending varies widely – from as little as a few hundreds of dollars per month to the astronomic several millions per month – and these are pegged to marketing KPI objectives at the beginning of the marketing campaigns.  You may spend anywhere between 3 to 12% of your clinic’s revenue on marketing activities that use a blend of traditional and digital platforms. 

 

Conclusion 

Without doubt, there is quite a fair bit of preparatory work to be done before and during the clinic set up – and each task is vital to the success of the clinic in the long run.  While setting up your clinic may be challenging, it nevertheless could be one of the most satisfying achievements in your career as a doctor. 

Medinex has been in the business of helping doctors set up and grow their healthcare and clinic services for nearly 20 years.  From the setting up of physical clinic spaces, procuring of drugs, obtaining of licenses and accreditations, establishing the CMS and even providing financial consultation, we are committed to your clinic’s sustainable growth. 

 

To know more about how to start up your clinic, chat with us at +65 8023 9505 or simply contact us at contact@medinex.com.sg 

 

References 

https://www.acra.gov.sg/how-to-guides/before-you-start/reserving-a-business-name
https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider8/resources/2-1-faqs-for-advertisement-regulations_30dec.pdf

https://www.moh.gov.sg/docs/librariesprovider4/guidelines/clinic_guide.p

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