General Practice Business Model is Dead? A New Killing Season?!
How are you feeling with recent national headlines like these?
Recently it is becoming rare to get up in the morning and read something positive about your local general family practice. We do not subscribe to the ‘do nothing’ or ‘leave it to someone else’ approach. There are many practices thriving in this period of change and for some, the current climate presents more opportunities than problems.
The one thing that makes them successful while others continue to struggle?
They have become self aware. Only they can drive change and not let change drive them over a cliff. Having an offensive position is far more empowering than having a defensive position and allowing others to do their bidding for them.
Questions you should seriously ask yourself?
Should your practice continue to rely on the Government model of healthcare funding? What can you do about it? The answer is to firstly change your attitude and thinking. Since Medicare was introduced in the 1980’s, the entitlement problem has become more serious than we have ever seen.
Secondly it is acting on proactive thinking and not leaving it to others like the Government or your practice manager or peers to fix. It is your problem as much as it is theirs as you are all on the same boat. Everybody has to have their oars in the water and it is important to set a direction and start paddling to the shore in a timely manner.
After much soul searching, you will find the rest is easy. If the patient survives but the practice dies or you drastically reduce the quality of care you provide to your patients and go hungry at the same time, there is no point. Eat well and sleep well is a mantra everyone should follow. It may be hard work – but what choice do you have other than to quit? Is quitting a real alternative?
The reality is that most practices are starting to charge for their services in order to survive. This has a huge strategic and operational effect on the type of competition you will now face in the industry.
The hardest challenge is to know where to start and how to work through the plethora of ideas in order to ensure they are executed on a timely basis. With the appropriate governance, management and delegation structures in place, this is not difficult to achieve. For more information, see our Time Management Tips and Could you be responsible for the death of your Practice? Four key areas to watch!
The smart practices are already on top of this. To meet this headwind, they choose to work on and not just in their practices. They are also winning by not only increasing prices but improving and diversifying their services. The key focus is on being proactive to build trust with healthcare prevention activities.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Patients have become more demanding for prompt and efficient services. People are now looking for proactive, rather than reactive providers and practices, especially if they have to pay for it. For some ideas see our articles How to choose a good GP/Practice and what made good doctors cry!, Greedy Doctors?! and What happens when a Doctor Gets Sued?
Practices will need to ensure billing, debt collection systems and procedures are working. Most importantly, communicating this change can be difficult if patients do not perceive any real benefit other than a price hike.
A simple repainting of the waiting room or new practice uniforms, for example, can change this perception. Many ideas do not involve a lot of money, just a focus on what your patients value. Reception staff that sound more helpful and engaged over the phone or at the front desk can make a huge difference. Providers should not be immune to this sort of examination. A useful starting point is just to check your latest practice survey comments for honest and constructive feedback and or ask the reception staff. The little things can and do make a big difference.
The bottom line is that all providers and staff will need to be even more attentive as practices become more competitive in this area in the search for discerning fee-paying patients, even if this is to subsidise the non-fee paying patient. We will be doing our best to communicate why your free healthcare dollar days may be numbered and what you can do about it so high quality services are not compromised.
The key is to offer continuity of care and a high quality service at every point of contact your patient has with you.
When you have a chance do something, it is always better than nothing. We do not agree with the doomsayers! It is all about the right attitude that you can control, and not pursing solutions that you cannot control.
This may sound cliché, but it is about working smarter and not harder. The real problem is time. On this you may be your own worst enemy. You will say you do not have time. This is only because it is not a priority. The reality is that one day you will run out of time and it will be too late and the best advisers in the world will not be able to help you.
Working out what works and what does not and implementing this on a timely basis will make the real difference and the great news is that it will cost very little to do.
Our practical ideas do work, they are implemented in Practices like yours. We have been doing this nationally for 24 years. If you follow them, you will have less to worry about. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts but at least you are not reinventing the wheel.
You have nothing to lose if your practice is your most important investment in your life. For most practitioners and staff it is your engine room to your family’s financial security, so do not risk it with inexperienced advice. From our estimates, the freeze will severely bite in 2017 if it is not already hurting you and your patients now.
Time is running out to do something. There is a financial fail point for practices, when it is too late to fix things. We have already done these numbers. It is important that you make a positive change in philosophy and work with a sustainable business model urgently for the people you care about if you want to keep helping them. Contact us for a free and confidential no obligation consult at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always here for you.