As young women doctors, Maria Boulton and Fiona Raciti were concerned about the direction that general practice was heading. Patients who were rushed through consultations by harried doctors were not, they believed, getting what they needed from the medical fraternity. “We were disillusioned with the proliferation of the ‘five-minute medicine’ approach, which sacrifices time spent with patients in favour of optimising throughput,” Maria explains.
“Increasingly, we saw people turning to ‘Dr Google’ to try to find answers to medical questions. This showed us that people really want to arm themselves with information about their own health – the need and desire to improve their wellbeing is there. But they still need reliable, evidence-based sources of information in order to truly empower themselves.”
Envisioning holistic healthcare
“We believed strongly that the role of health professionals should include educating the community in order to encourage healthy lifestyles and prevent health problems,” Fiona adds. “We knew that we could help people so much more and still have a successful business.”
Encouraged by friends and family to pursue their vision, Maria and Fiona began planning Family Doctors Plus, a general practice providing comprehensive care for all ages. Their Brisbane clinic opened its doors in 2016.
“This small business is the result of our passion to change the way that general practice and primary health care is delivered,” says Maria simply. It was so successful that only a year later, they took out the award for Telstra Queensland Business of the Year.
Empowering families to optimise their health
At Family Doctors Plus, resident GPs and allied health professionals provide up-to-date, evidence-based medicine, combined with a holistic approach to nutrition, exercise and clean living. The focus is on preventing disease as well as treating it.
“We aim to empower families to optimise their health and take charge of their well-being," Maria explains. To this end, she and Fiona are proactive about sharing knowledge with the community, using their clinic for education sessions on topics ranging from puberty to school readiness to menopause, as well as writing regular newsletters for schools and parents. Maria also talks about all things health-related in her regular guest spot on ABC Radio Brisbane.
Maria and Fiona’s mission to change general practice is family focused, and they designed their clinic with a dedicated children’s treatment room and a child-friendly waiting area. But it wasn’t long before they noticed gaps in other markets that would allow them to expand their business.
Branching out: aged care and corporate medicine
Six months after starting Family Doctors Plus, Maria and Fiona recognised a gap in the aged-care market. “Aged-care homes were struggling to find doctors who could visit their sites to care for their residents,” Fiona explains. “So, we established satellite clinics at two nursing homes for both the residents and the staff, focusing on preventing diseases as well as treating them, and on improving patients’ quality of life – physically and emotionally.”
They also set up Corporate Doctors Plus, extending their holistic, evidence-based approach to occupational health in the corporate sector, with the aim of improving the health of staff and reducing time lost due to injury.
Lessons in business
The pair are the first to admit that they’ve had a lot to learn about running their own business. “Although we’re experienced in providing medical care, we’re new at owning a business, so we’ve actively sought out the best support team to help us navigate the business world,” says Maria. Their team includes trusted marketing, web and accounting professionals.
Being actively involved in the community through their education initiatives and delivering high-quality medical care has meant that word-of-mouth referrals are also a major source of growth for the business.
They’d like their success to be a beacon for other determined women with great ideas. “We want to encourage others – particularly women – to pursue their dreams with tenacity and hard work.”