Supporting GP practice ownership

Amanda Lyons

4/04/2018 2:04:34 PM

Dr Sean Stevens, Chair of the RACGP’s Business of General Practice Specific Interests network, talks to newsGP about the current state of practice ownership, and offers support to aspiring GP–owners.

Dr Sean Stevens cites the opportunity to create a practice that reflects a GP’s own style and approach to healthcare as a major advantage of ownership.
Dr Sean Stevens cites the opportunity to create a practice that reflects a GP’s own style and approach to healthcare as a major advantage of ownership.

The RACGP’s 2017 General practice: Health of the nation report found that 51% of GP respondents were not at all interested in owning their own practice, compared to 11% who were very interested and 14% who were moderately interested.
According to Dr Sean Stevens, these survey results are reflective of an operating environment in which a variety of factors, such as the Medicare rebate freeze and increasing corporatisation, are making practice ownership more difficult.
There are also demographic and generational factors at play.
‘Generation Y and millennials don’t want to be tied down with the burden of practice ownership because, while it is very rewarding, it is also a very big responsibility,’ he told newsGP.
Despite the responsibility posed by practice ownership, Dr Stevens believes it remains well worth the effort, both for individual GPs and the profession as a whole. On a personal level, Dr Stevens has found one of the most important benefits of ownership is the chance to create a practice that reflects their own style and approach to healthcare.
‘You have the ability to shape how you want the practice to be, the culture of the practice,’ he said. ‘You can have a sense of pride in being able to build something lasting that provides good quality care for a lot of people.
‘You can also provide an excellent workplace, which can give a real sense of achievement. And you can see the rewards of your own efforts, for what you put in. Whereas, if you work for somebody else you can only see reward in your own individual patients.’
While Dr Stevens acknowledges there is a place for corporate practices in healthcare, he believes GP practice ownership is good for general practice as a whole and is concerned about the challenges corporates present to the model of private ownership.
‘I believe the playing field needs to be level between corporates and private practice owners and, at the moment, I don’t think it is,’ he said. ‘The system is skewed in favour of corporate practices, the diversification into other health fields, and the sheer scale they can leverage from and use to subsidise the recruitment of GPs.
‘It is hard for a GP-owned practice to start up in competition with a corporate, particularly at the beginning because it’s very hard to achieve scale that makes your business efficient.’
Dr Stevens understands the barriers many Australian GPs face in approaching practice ownership – and is keen to leverage the RACGP and its resources to help aspiring GP owners overcome them.
‘Part of the role of the Business of General Practice [Specific Interest] network is to encourage and mentor the next generation of GP–owners,’ he said. ‘We’ve also got a new RACGP practice owner’s conference launching in August in Melbourne.
‘We’re looking to encourage practice owners to remain practice owners, improve the efficiency of their business and provide better quality care. But we’re also looking to mentor aspiring or new practice owners because we think that if, as a profession, we don’t do it for our own then nobody else is going to do it.
‘We’ve got some very exciting topics at the conference, based on feedback we’ve had from practice owners. I’m quite excited about it; I think it’s going to be really good.’
GP resources
The RACGP’s General practice management toolkit is a guide and reference for GPs and practice managers. It is designed to provide business and management advice tailored to a general practice setting and consists of 13 modules:

  1. Professional career management
  2. Practice assessment
  3. Business structures
  4. Starting a medical practice
  5. Business plans
  6. Practice teams and leadership
  7. Managing financial resources
  8. Managing people
  9. Technology in general practice
  10. Managing quality
  11. Managing the wellbeing of staff and self
  12. Clinical governance
  13. Closing a medical practice
Members can download the General practice management toolkit modules via the RACGP website.
The RACGP’s Employer guide (3rd edition) has been developed for GP–employers and other members of the practice leadership team. It is designed to assist in adopting effective human resources processes, and covers a range of management issues, including:
  • development of position descriptions
  • interview processes
  • selection
  • negotiation
  • employment legislation
  • staff management.
Members can download the Employer guide via the RACGP website.

The RACGP will release further details on the new national conference for practice owners, including the conference program, in coming weeks. Email for more information.

business-of-general-practice general-practice-management practice-ownership

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