Starting a Medical Practice in Canada: Three Business Tips You Must Know

Becoming a doctor is no small feat—this is a widely accepted fact. But despite the involvement and commitment required to obtain a medical degree, this line of study doesn’t guarantee that all doctors who graduate are prepared to start their own medical practice. In fact, starting your own medical practice can require a lot of additional learning, skill acquisition and consultation of experts: basically, a lot more work!

While starting a medical practice might take more effort and time than simply going to work for someone else, it can also provide a number of benefits. Private practitioners have a level of independence and autonomy less frequently afforded to doctors who work for hospitals. Additionally, starting your own practice can allow you to serve a population with less access to high-quality healthcare.

Furthermore, creating a medical practice from scratch, while challenging and a little complicated, is definitely not impossible. With the right advice, information and resources, starting a medical practice can be a relatively pain-free—if somewhat involved—process.

While this is by no means an exhaustive guide for starting your medical practice, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you pursue this dream.

Start with a Vision

With so many steps towards opening a medical practice, it can be hard to know what to do first. One of the best places to start is with a vision of what you want your medical practice to be. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why are you starting a new practice instead of joining an existing one? This question will help you identify your business priorities. It can also assist you in answering the questions below. For example:
  • Is your primary goal with a private practice to be able to work closer to home? Then you know the location of your office space will be an extremely important factor as you move forward with building your practice.
  • Do you want to work alone or with a team? Even if you want to be the sole provider at your practice, you will still probably need to hire administrative staff. If you want to work with a team of other doctors or have a business partner, this is something you’ll need to prioritize as you build your practice.
  • What kind of population do you want to serve? Identifying the population you want to serve might help you identify a location for your practice. For example, if you want to start a pediatric practice, it might be a good idea to find office space in a neighborhood or town that has a large population of young families.

These are just a few sample questions to get you started. Try to create an exhaustive, detailed vision for yourself. While this picture is almost guaranteed to change—you need to be flexible and prepared for hiccups while starting a business—it gives you a place to start and natural steps will follow.

Solicit Good Advice

Good leaders and good business owners know when to say, “I don’t know.” One of the most important steps to starting a business is admitting that you need help and you can’t do it alone. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources for doctors looking to start their own practice.

It’s likely you will need advice in a variety of different subjects, like accounting and payroll, human resources, loans and financial planning, tax planning, legal matters and insurance. For example, you should think about whether your practice should be operated as a sole proprietorship or if you should incorporate, a decision that should be made in consultation with your doctor’s accountant. You can approach these topics individually on your own or find a small business consultant with experience in medical practices who can direct you towards the right subject matter experts.

Take your time to find a source expert that you can trust. This might mean scouring online reviews and asking for recommendations from people in your industry. Ideally, you can find another doctor who has started their own practice and they can recommend advisors that were instrumental in helping them get started.

This should be one of your earliest steps once you’ve decided to start your own medical practice. Consultants and advisors will play an important role throughout the realization of your business and even after your business is thriving.

Be Sure You Are Properly Licensed

There are a variety of licenses and regulatory agencies associated with starting and operating a medical practice. It’s not enough to simply have a medical degree. It’s important to be sure you have obtained all licenses before you start investing money into your new practice. No one wants a nasty surprise that slows down or even halts progress after their money is already tied up in a business!

For example, any doctor who wants to start a medical practice in Ontario will need an Independent Practice Certificate of Registration provided by The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. You’ll also need to register for an Ontario Health Insurance Policy (OHIP) Billing Number in order to get paid for your services. In addition to required licenses and registrations, you might want to consider other memberships that can be helpful for independent practices, like joining the Ontario Medical Association.

Remember that there will not only be different licenses and regulations for different localities, but you will need to approach different agencies depending on your location. Location-specific research is required when trying to sort out licensing for a new medical practice.

Stick With It

Like medical school, there will be ups and downs in the process of starting your own medical practice. Don’t let a small problem set you off course. If you get discouraged, return to your vision and remember why you began this pursuit in the first place. As long as you remain dedicated and follow these tips, your efforts will pay off and you will be able to realize your dream.