Future Practice Ramps Up
- On November 10, 2016
- NSW Doctor
Future Practice ramps up
AMA (NSW)’s campaign to help GPs build better, more financially stable practices is gathering momentum.
The Medicare rebate freeze is slated to remain in place until 2020. No one has a crystal ball, but one thing GPs can be sure of is that it’s already been in place since 2014.
For the last two years the Government has kept the rebate static, while operational costs have continued to rise and GPs have been expected to absorb the loss. GPs are working longer and harder for the same income. GPs are seeing patients for extended consultations; patients are coming in with more complex and chronic disease; and the number of problems per consultation is increasing.
Added to that is the increased pressure to regularly update systems and technology – all of which comes at a cost.
The GP is a patient’s first port of call when accessing the health system and there is an incredible responsibility to provide high level care to ensure health needs are addressed early and appropriately.
For many, the current situation is no longer tenable. Even if the Government raised the rebate tomorrow, it would unlikely be enough to cover what so many doctors have lost over the preceding years.
This is why so many members are looking at solutions to improve their business model, and why AMA (NSW) has launched Future Practice.
Future Practice is a platform for GPs who want to deliver high quality patient care and have a sustainable business model.
The Future Practice website contains many resources for GPs looking to transform their practices, including a practice health check, support to move beyond bulk billing, technology support, communications to staff and patients, posters and more.
In addition, we’ve launched the AMA (NSW) Practice Management Consultancy Services. Our members receive a free one hour telephone consultation with our Practice Management consultant, AAPM Vice President, Cathy Baynie.
She can provide advice on training your staff, communicating with patients, modernising your appointment booking procedures, and more.
She is also available for full and half-day practice reviews, after which she will give you a detailed report showing your options and how you can improve your practice (fees apply).
Please visit our Future Practice website to find out more.
What doctors are saying about private billing
- Feelings of guilt
One of the main concerns GPs have about moving away from bulk billing relates to feelings of guilt at charging patients a fee. However, there are many different ways to incorporate private billing into your practice. The reality is many GPs continue to bulk bill a percentage of their patients, while private billing the rest. For example, children and OAPs may be bulk billed, while other patients pay a fee. Alternatively, some GPs choose to charge a fee on top of the rebate for appointments outside of certain working hours.
- Fear of losing patients
The fear that your patients will visit another doctor down the road is another big barrier to GPs charging a fee. GPs who have made the transition often report that they experience about a 10% drop in patient numbers following a move to private billing. However, the loss in patients is offset by the increased income.
One of the benefits of privately billing patients is that it takes the pressure off to get patients in and out the door as quickly as possible. The ability to spend more time with each patient often results in a more satisfactory experience for both the doctor and the patient.
- What about the competition?
While other general practices in your area might solely rely on bulk billing, you can’t base your business model on what they are doing. The last thing GPs want is a race to the bottom. If you decide to charge a fee, then look for other ways to differentiate your practice from the rest. The increased revenue from private billing can be reinvested into your business to give patients a high quality experience that separates you from the pack. The other thing to be aware of is that many GPs are in the same boat. A recent RACGP survey of more than 500 doctors found 29% were transitioning away from bulk billing.
- Bulk billing indicator
While we often hear that bulk billing rates have continued to rise, some health commentators indicate the bulk billing indicator is being misinterpreted. The bulk billing rate is based on services rather than at a patient level, ie 84% of services are bulk billed, not 84% of patients are bulk billed. Rising GP bulk billing rates could be a reflection of the broadened access to the MBS and growth of health services (family planning clinics, not-for-profit rehabilitation centre, refugee health centres, etc). dr.