Working on Your Terms: Considerations for the Allied Health Professional

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You know there’s more to being an allied health professional than endless, inconveniently timed shifts in a roster created to suit someone else.

You know that, with Therago, you’re a free agent, an allied health ninja. You set your own shifts. You’re in full control of your working hours and your earnings. You get all the fulfilment of meeting people’s therapeutic needs but now, finally, you have the flexibility to meet your own needs too – and without the hassle of establishing a bricks and mortar practice.

You know you want to do it. But you don’t yet know how to do it.

Here’s what you need to sort out before you see your first patient.  

Business Structure

You are now going into business so you need to decide on a business structure.

The simplest structure when you’re starting out is to be a sole trader. That’s an individual running a business. On the plus side, this is low cost, uses your personal tax file number, and means you keep full control of decisions and income. On the minus side, you’re personally liable, meaning all your own assets (like your house) are at risk if anyone should sue you. Read more about being a sole trader here.

Alternatively, you could establish yourself as a company. That has its own tax file number and lodges its own tax return. It’s more complicated to establish, more expensive to run and has more extensive reporting requirements. On the other hand, it may give you more scope to grow by increasing your access to capital and it may offer more protection for your personal assets. Read more about establishing a company here.

Other business structures include a partnership (you and at least one other person) or a trust.

If you’re unsure which structure would suit you best, then talk to an accountant or business advisor.

Remember, you’re not making an irreversible decision. You can change your business structure as time goes on.

ABN

Now you need an Australian business number or ABN. This is an 11-digit number that identifies your business to the government and the community, much as your registration plates identify your car.

You’ll use your ABN on orders and invoices, to get an Australian domain name if you decide to set up a website, and to claim GST (if you register for it).

GST

Goods and services tax, or GST, is a 10% tax on most items and services sold or consumed in Australia.

If you’ve chosen to be a sole trader, you do not have to register for GST unless you earn over $75,000 per year. If you’ve created a company, you must register for GST.

The Australian Tax Office can help you get to grips with GST or you can ask your accountant.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

As an allied health professional, your goal is to heal not harm. But even with the best intentions and the best care, things can sometimes go wrong.

That’s why the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) requires all healthcare professionals to have professional indemnity insurance that complies with their registration standard.

The details may vary depending on your profession so consult your Board about the registration standard that applies to you. If you’re a physiotherapist, you can download the Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s guidance on professional indemnity insurance here.

There are many potential insurers. It’s worth asking your colleagues which insurer they use and getting several quotes from a broker. Just make sure you have the amount of cover that your Board requires.

Setting Your Rates

You need to set a fair, competitive rate for your services. It needs to cover the consultation time, travel time and petrol costs (if you’re providing home visits), equipment costs and depreciation and your super contributions.

With Therago, you can change your rates at any time. So if you conclude that your price is too low or too high, then you can go back into your provider profile and change it.

Clinical Records

You’re treating patients so you’re required to keep good clinical records that comply with the Australian Privacy Principles.

There are many ways to keep good records, everything from purpose-built software programs to paper records in a locked filing cabinet. Again, check your Board’s advice on this topic then work out what system you will use.

Invoicing and Getting Paid

Once you’ve treated your patient, it’s time to get paid. This is how things work so don’t feel shy about sending your invoice – you deserve to be paid promptly for your services.

Try to collect payment as soon as possible after the consultation finishes. If you work in a clinic, patients pay at reception on their way out.

If you’re working freelance through Therago, then you could collect prompt payments by:

  • Taking credit card payments over the phone or through videoconferencing if you’re providing telehealth
  • Taking payment on the spot at the end of your home visit using a handheld EFTPOS machine
  • Emailing an invoice for payment within a specified time, e.g. 7 or 14 days.

Even if you take payment on the spot, you do need to provide an invoice that includes certain information as specified by the Australian government.

There are many free invoicing platforms that allow you to accept online payments. Or you can design a simple invoice in Word that includes your bank details.

Tax Considerations

You need to keep a record of your income and expenses for your tax return.

If you’re using business software, it should do this for you. Alternatively, you can create a simple chart in Excel or Word that lists your clients, date of service, income and date paid.

When it comes to tax time, it’s probably best to use an accountant, at least for your first year. An accountant can help you improve your processes, identify more potential deductions and ensure you comply with the law.

If you anticipate a tax bill, then it’s best to save for it throughout the year or to pay as you go.

Review

From time to time, it’s a good idea to review how things are going. Are your rates about right? Could you streamline your processes to reduce your admin time? Is it worth offering additional services? Do your hours still suit you and your patients?

You may feel a little daunted by setting up your own roving practice through Therago but you can do it. You will grow into your role as a freelancer, just as you grew into a skilled allied health professional through a combination of training and practice.

There are many organisations that will help you learn the fundamentals of running a business. Take a look at:

Where Will You Go With Therago?

So, that’s all you need to get started as an allied health ninja on Therago. Now you have the business essentials in place, you’re ready to choose your patients, choose your services and choose your hours. You’ve got this. It’s going to be great.

Disclaimer

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.


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