This post – is in the form of a Q and A as I received this question from a recent seminar attendee in London – and it raised some interesting points.
I recently attended your conference in London and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. I have been in Private Practice for 15 yrs and run my own practice for the past 10. I found the information both interesting and stimulating and we are busy putting some of your ideas into practice.
I particularly liked the idea of selling stock items direct from a distributor and therefore not having to hold the stock oneself and have a large amount of choice for our patients. At the same time, making a profit between the wholesale and the retail price from the distributor.
However, our association guidelines are that, members should not financially profit from recommending a particular product so how do you get around that problem?
Martin (Physiotherapist – London)
Nice to hear from you – and please that you enjoyed the London seminar – it was a great event – although not quite in the same league as the recent royal wedding.
Your question raises some interesting points – not only for a business minded professional like me– but also the issue of the impact that our professional and regulatory bodies have on our ability to run a successful and profitable business.
I am sure we will get some great discussion on this topic on my forum – but to kick things off – here are some thoughts that came to mind:
To some degree I understand the rationale behind the associations concern about therapists making a profit from product sales but does’nt this also cut to the bone of our professional ethics.
The associations are pretty much saying that we “as professionals” cannot be trusted to recommend products based on what is in the best interest of the patient – so we need to be regulated so that we don’t make a margin on anything we sell – just in case the profit margin determines our recommendation.
This is no different to an association telling us how many times we can treat each patient – because we all make a profit for every consult we deliver – which totally removes the discretion and professional experience of the therapist.
These recommendations are also very typical of public health directives – because I know is my businesses – if we have inventory sitting in our clinics- taking up space and using my capital up front to acquire these items – I want to be selling these items for a profit to make it worth my time, effort and money to have them in stock in the first place.
Whilst I could rant on for ages about the issues here are some possible solutions that other health professionals have suggested as a way to make extra income from product sales in health care:
- Set up your product store as a separate business name and run all sales through your “product company” rather than through your clinical business.
- Check the wording of your associations directive (as they all vary) – in your example you said the words “our association guidelines are that members should not financially profit from recommending a particular product” – so you may actually have a range of products available and the patient actually chooses the product after you have explained the pros and cons of each item.
- Set up your product store on the back end of your website – and send patients to this online shop to buy the product they require – if the store is set up in another business name then you have no problems – but I would find it hard to see how you could be under the scrutiny of your association for having a range of products on your site that the patient selects from.
At the end of the day you need to satisfy your professional association requirements – to maintain your registration – but some of the regulations are so outdated and prohibitive that they make it very difficult for a health professional to survive in the competitive health marketplace.
I sometimes wonder how much consultation occurs between the legislators at the top of our associations and the grass roots professionals at the coal face – especially in private practice.
I welcome your comments on this topic.