Strategic planning for your General Practice By Paul Copeland on 27/02/19 Running a general medical practice is tough! Practitioner owners not only need to be across all of the clinical aspects of the business but also need to be considering innovation, corporatisation, succession planning, compliance requirements around privacy, cyber security, employee issues, marketing and increased competition. No wonder you feel tired! Corporatisation of the industry is seeing some practices approached to sell and pressure being applied for a quick sale. Where there isn’t a succession plan in place this can, at first glance, seem like a great and easy exit strategy. But does it fit in with what you really want for yourself and your practice? The requirements and security around patient confidentiality and the mandatory reporting of breaches, even minor issues, have added an additional layer of complexity and administration to the practice. Staff issues such as the requirement for casual employees to potentially become permanent part-time; doctors (who we consider contractors) arguing that they really are employees and therefore seek entitlements and the constant threat of attack from cyber terrorists (it is happening to general practices), can be added to the list is issues to consider. Now general practices are being encouraged to develop marketing plans and to market their practice – but what do you market? What is the point of difference for your practice? Many practices when they consider this question will say, “the quality of our doctors and the care we provide our patients.” However, if many practices say this, how can it be a point of difference? To top it all off, these pressures are being felt under the constant backdrop of increased competition. New Fellows joining the market and overseas-trained doctors moving from the DWS areas in the bush to the city are fueling the expansion of new medical centres. With increasing competition and growing pressure on profit, practice owners and operators need to seriously focus on the business elements of their practice, as well as the medical and human side. The fact is you can’t just put a sign out the front of your premises that says ‘bulk-billed’ anymore. Some doctors find it hard to reconcile making money from their practice because they want to give back to the community and ensure the care of their patients. However, maximising your practice benefits the whole community. Even after you retire, a succession plan will ensure continued care of your patients. Ultimately, if you’re looking to retire and care about your patients, you want to make sure there is an adequate plan in place to continue to provide them with good healthcare. For example, we often see regional areas with towns of five thousand people, particularly in Queensland, where there are no doctors. That’s an issue. Care of patients need to be considered when looking at the strategic plan of any practice. Implementing a strategic plan A strategic plan gives you and your team a direction (besides patient care) that everyone understands and can work towards. Key decisions will be influenced by the direction of the practice. Short-term and long-term planning is critical for adapting to the speed at which your practice changes. While that may sound counterintuitive – how do you engage in a plan when you don’t know what to plan for? – the key is to mitigate risk by anticipating future needs in the next 12 months and up to three years. A plan should consider the past, the present and the future. Key questions to ask: What’s your vision for the practice? How are you going to compete in an existing and increasingly competitive market? What’s your point of difference? Why are people coming to you? To fully understand and answer these questions, our process will look at your vision for the practice, how your staff work and feel, your patients, what services you offer and how you offer them and the financial aspects of your practice. Having a specialised advisor in healthcare enables you to provide an objective comparison with benchmarks of similar practices. An advisor also opens the opportunity for you to focus on the prominent issues affecting your practice and offers new perspectives. After the strategic course is determined in the initial planning session, the group should meet at least annually. Making your team hum In today’s landscape, success of your business requires you to take a whole-of-practice view. A practice is not always just about the doctor – the doctor is a critical element, however, there are other factors within your practice that can affect the patient outcomes. Particularly, for a mixed-billing practice, it’s all about creating the experience for the patient. From the moment they decide to book, to walking out the door after their appointment, they want their experience to be a pleasant one. You can be the best doctor in the world, however, if somewhere during their experience your patient is let down by someone else, this can become an issue. If you’re interested in a William Buck strategic plan for your practice or a complimentary health check, please contact your local advisor.