What You Should Know About Practicing Out of Your Home
If it’s true that “there’s no place like home,” could your home also be the perfect place to practice naturopathic medicine? Maybe so.
There are some definite perks to home-based businesses: no rent to pay, flexible hours, short (to no) commute time, lower overhead and tax advantages, too. But there are some downsides, as well: a loss of privacy and space, the inability to separate work from home and the potential inconvenience to your neighbors and neighborhood.
What should you do? If you’re interested in practicing from home, here are a few things you should consider before you take the leap.
Local planning or zoning ordinances generally allow for most small home businesses to operate as long as the home is used primarily as a residence. Still, it’s important to check with the local planning and zoning board to ensure you’re not breaking the rules with your home-based practice.
You know you want to operate from home, but where? Is there a spare room you’re hoping to convert? An unused basement or garage? Wherever you choose to practice, it needs to be an appropriate and accessible environment for all patients. The location should include:
- A designated space for consulting and examining patients. It should offer privacy and be accessible for patients with disabilities or mobility issues.
- Bathroom facilities. The restroom should be close to the exam room and away from the high-traffic areas of your home. Again, privacy and discretion are key to building trust with patients. If possible, maintain separate bathrooms for patients and family.
- Workspace. This is more for you, not the patients. If you’ll be handling paperwork, billing, documentation, etc., maintain office or desk space for yourself.
- When it comes to ADA, it is best to check with your lawyer and visit ADA.gov for more details on the specific requirements.
If you’re just starting out, you may not need much to launch your business. Some of the basics include:
- Office technology. A good computer system will help keep your home business on track. If you’ll be handling the accounting, scheduling and documentation, you’ll need the right software to manage it all. When thinking about your office technology remember that you need to follow HIPAA requirements and local privacy laws. No one else in your home should have access to patient information. Consider working with your legal team and a technology company familiar with healthcare to ensure you are remaining compliant.
- Phone and internet. For privacy reasons, choose a separate number and phone line for your business. This will also prove easier to track at tax time.
Location & Logistics
Not only does the inside of your home need to accommodate patients, but the outside does, too. Consider:
- Signage. How will patients know where to find you? Will you have a sign for your practice? If there’s a separate entrance for patients, will it be clearly marked?
- Parking. Will patients park on the street? In an alley way? If they park in your driveway, will you and your family members be able to come and go with ease?
- Traffic and noise. Practicing out of your home means bringing business into a private neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors to let them know about your practice. Set the rules about where to park, when you’re “open for business” and how you’d like patients to conduct themselves when they visit your home. Make the expectations clear to minimize the impact on your neighbors.
Cost & Tax Advantages
There’s no doubt you’ll save overhead by operating out of your home (think: rent, mortgage, employee salaries, etc.). And you’ll likely save money on parking, gas and your daily coffee run, but in what other areas will you reap the benefits of your home-based practice? Think: tax time.
As long as your practice meets the Internal Revenue Service’s “principal place of business” designation, you could write off things like insurance, office expenses and mortgage interest.
When you own a home or business, insurance is a must-have. But, in the event you operate a business out of your home, does your homeowners policy then cover everything? Unfortunately, no, and assuming as much could prove costly in the event of a property or liability loss.
For starters, many homeowners policies don’t cover things like data loss, loss of income or injured employees. Coverage is also limited on equipment necessary for the operation of your business like an EHR system or computer.
It’s recommended that you check with your agent to see how/if your current policy is enough or whether you’ll need a separate policy to cover the gaps.
If you have roommates or family living with you, you’ll want to consider the impact your business will have on them. Allowing strangers into your home can feel like a violation of their privacy if they are not part of the decision.
Also, will you be able to separate your business and personal lives? With work literally steps away from your home, will you be able to set it aside to spend time with your family or friends or do other things that sustain you? Conversely, will you be able to operate your business without getting distracted by your responsibilities at home?
Operating a home-based business isn’t for everyone but it can be rewarding if you’re able to set realistic boundaries and expectations up front. With the right discipline and advance planning, running a practice from home could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
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