The GMC puts a lot of effort into ensuring that doctors are competent.
We need to keep up-to-date and be assessed regularly to show that we are fit to practice.
We need to attend conferences and read medical journals and reflect on our practice to demonstrate that we are continually striving to improve.
It is called medical ‘practice’ for a reason, because no matter how senior you are, we are always learning and never really master it.
We are public servants and our ultimate aim is to deliver the best for our patients.
This means that we must take time and care to listen to our patients and understand their symptoms, analyse the clinical signs and plan, execute and monitor a treatment pathway.
When looking at how best to treat our patients and to maximise our outcomes, for some reason we often view private medicine as being less ‘worthy’.
We would be applauded for providing a guide for patients who may have noticed blood in their sputum or have a persistent cough.
…but a guide to tell patients about the common causes of knee pain or the different types of abdominoplasty may be seen as ‘marketing’.
Contrary to popular belief (at least belief of doctors who don’t embrace private practice), the aim of medicine in the private sector is the same as the aim of medicine in the public sector.
I think it is this perceived discrepancy that is the reason that most doctors in private practice are incompetent.
At least incompetent when it comes to engaging with patients and delivering relevant and helpful information.
Since I have started helping doctors in private practice, I have spent time looking at the profiles of consultants and contacting them as a patient would.
I am shocked at the apathy and difficulty in obtaining basic information about a procedure.
It is not uncommon, in fact I would say it is the norm rather than the exception for the phone not to be answered when phoning the consultant’s office within office hours.
Furthermore perhaps even more shocking is that I have also found that in the majority of cases (that’s right I said the majority) an email requesting information about a common procedure is more likely to be ignored than responded to.
This is all part of medical practice and if I was to contact my GP surgery and not get a response, then I would quite rightly feel aggrieved.
However just because someone is calling their GP about a pain in their leg, doesn’t make that enquiry any more important than the enquiries your patients are making in to your private practice.
Helping patients who are contacting us and delivering information is part of being a doctor.
And if you don’t have a system to respond to enquiries or have information that you can give to patients who are looking for help,
…then you are not being a good doctor.
- If you don’t have processes to follow up with patients who have enquired or have been to the clinic to talk to you about a problem
- If you don’t check that they have got all the information they need
- If you don’t make sure that they are aware of how much things will cost
- …and whether there is any help in terms of finance options and instalments
…then you are doing a disservice to your patients.
Patients who are looking for help in the private sector are still human beings and it is perfectly right, ethical and appropriate to provide them with information and access to your services and advice.
These are all part of the core competencies in being a doctor.
I hope the more doctors will start to realise that private practice is not just something that you do on the side to supplement your NHS income.
I have been working full-time in private practice since 2012 and I am constantly updating my procedures and processes and I do not have enough hours in the day.
I used to be a full-time NHS consultant and I look back and wonder how I managed to balance my private practice with an NHS post as well as spending time with the family.
If you are trying to balance this yourself, then I can help you to put in some of the foundations in setting up your private practice as I am running a meeting on Monday 11th of November in Birmingham.
It is all about how to set up a Private Practice and I will talking about:
- how to decide what you want your practice to look like and why you need to think about which patients you want to attract (and who you want to repel)
- why you need to get started now and not wait until you come up in Google searches (you don’t need Google)
- the importance of an online presence and why it doesn’t matter if the whole world can’t find you
- how to oursource secretarial work, call handling and design – you can look professional without needing a staff of helpers
- why you should ‘think big but act small’ – don’t try to make out that your practice is bigger than it is. Patients want a personal service and don’t want to feel like they are part of a big corporation.
You won’t find anything like this out there and whether you have just started in Private Practice, or have been doing it for years,
…the chances are that you haven’t thought of how to structure your practice and what you need to focus on to make a real difference to the service that you give to your patients and ultimately, your outcomes.