There are over 8,400 licensed chiropractors in Canada. If you are a chiropractor and you’re thinking of opening your own practice, read on. Even with the musculoskeletal system down pat, there are aspects of opening a clinic that can leave you bent out of shape without the proper prep. Here are a few things to think about before opening your doors to patients.
Protecting Your Personal Assets
If you run your business as a sole proprietor or as part of a partnership there is no legal line between you and your clinic. The clinic’s earnings are your own earnings.
Why is this significant? The tax rate for businesses is lower than the tax rate for individuals. If you are incorporated and your clinic makes a significant amount of money one year, you can keep it in the business and pay yourself a lower amount as a salary thereby lowering how much you pay in taxes that year. If you’re a sole proprietor you can’t do this because there is no legal distinction between you and your clinic.
Sole proprietors are also personally responsible for the clinic’s liabilities, like debts. Incorporation shields your personal assets from being seized to pay off your business’s debts. You’re also protected, to some extent, from the business’s liabilities. We say to some extent because there is a big “but” for anyone that is a chiropractor. Incorporation doesn’t shield a chiropractor professional from personal liability for their professional negligence.
Steps to Take:
- Consult an accountant and a lawyer to discuss the tax and legal implications of sole proprietorship vs. incorporation.
- Take out a professional liability insurance or malpractice insurance plan whether or not you’re incorporated. If you already have a plan, check that you have the right amount of protection.
Pick the Right Office Space For Your Practice
You’ll need room for yourself and your equipment as well as:
- Room for other associates (or future associates depending on how quickly you plan to hire someone else)
- Space for your receptionist
- A waiting room that’s large enough to manage traffic and keep patients comfortable
Once you know the absolute minimum amount of space you need, consider the different types of lease arrangements.
Generally, there are five different kinds of lease arrangements:
- gross lease
- net lease
- net-net lease
- triple net lease
- percentage lease
The main differences between these kinds of leases are how many supplemental expenses (i.e. insurance, real estate tax, operating costs) you’ll cover in addition to your base rent.
Steps to Take:
- Speak to an expert, such as a commercial real estate broker, to ensure you’re getting the best deal, especially if you’ll be negotiating expenses in a net lease
- Research your commercial property insurance options instead of taking whatever you’re offered so that you have enough protection in case there are any damages to your space
Brand Your Clinic and Improve the Patient Experience
Evaluate what makes your clinic different from others in the area. Hire a graphic designer or use online software to create your own logo, and choose specific colours or motifs for your office to create a consistent patient experience whether it’s in the waiting room or your office.
If you already have a clinic, a logo, and an aesthetic, think about the patient experience at your clinic. Are your patients frustrated by how difficult it is to get someone on the phone to book an appointment? Do they feel like they’re leaving their sessions without getting their questions properly answered? It’s anxieties like these that make a patient want to pick an alternative clinic, especially those who are paying out of pocket.
Steps to Take:
- Encourage patients to fill out anonymous surveys to share their feedback. You may have to make certain changes in response to hiring an additional receptionist or chiropractor.
- Take out a commercial general liability insurance policy to protect yourself from a number of potential claims that could be related to lost documents, employee dishonesty, and more.
Create a Cybersecurity Plan For Your Practice
Your practice holds a large amount of information on each patient.
- Contact information including names, phone numbers, emergency contacts, addresses
- Extended Health Coverage (EHC) policy details as well as credit card information for those who pay out of pocket
- Your personal notes on the patient
- Copies of medical files that have been forwarded by a patient’s other medical professionals
Steps to Take:
- Educate staff on the acceptable use of clinic computers
- Implement a “clean desk” policy to ensure no sensitive information is left out
- Purchase a cybersecurity insurance plan so you can respond appropriately to a breach without sinking your clinic financially
When you open a chiropractic firm, your responsibility expands to include the success of your practice in addition to the well-being of your patients. Be sure to dot your “t”s and cross your “i”s before jumping in with both feet and take care to cover yourself appropriately with the right insurance.