The top three operational challenges general practices face

Caitlin Wilson

25/08/2021 3:41:34 PM

SPONSORED: COVID has had a mixed impact on practice economics. CommBank’s GP Insights Report reveals how successful practices have responded.

A GP doing the paper work, using a calculator.
CommBank’s GP Insights Report examines how practices have adapted and responded to challenges created by the pandemic.

One third of Australian general practices have recorded lower revenue since the pandemic began, compared with 30% that have had higher revenue.
This is despite more practices overall reporting an increase in patient consultations than those that experienced a decline. So, if more patients are presenting to general practices, why are some seeing a decline in revenue?
CommBank’s GP Insights Report 2021, based on surveys conducted with 223 general practices and 2021 patients across Australia, has examined how practices adapted and responded to the challenges created by the pandemic and which practices responded better than others.
It found that the three top operational challenges currently facing general practices are technology investment, the adoption of telehealth consultations and the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations.
According to the report, 35% of practices reported that telehealth has negatively affected their profitability, while the vaccination rollout negatively affected profitability for 28% of practices.
And yet, 31% stated that the vaccination rollout had helped to increase profits.
The disparity exists for a number of reasons.
It is clear that the rising proportion of bulk-billed consultations associated with the vaccine rollout and adoption of telehealth, alongside the continued rise in operating costs, are hurting practice economics.
Meanwhile, revenue and profit are holding up better in regional and larger practices, which have been helped by a significantly higher proportion of practices reporting an increase in patient numbers and enhanced ability to manage the profitability of telehealth and vaccinations.
The research has also found that practices deriving increased profits from vaccinations are more likely to have allocated a dedicated vaccination space, distributed educational material to encourage vaccinations, and are far less likely to have purchased extra equipment or hired extra support staff.
To help offset the rise in operating costs, practices are implementing efficiencies around patient appointments and staff rostering. Finding alternative suppliers and renegotiating leases are other popular strategies, along with increasing consultation fees, with 33% of patients reporting that fees have increased.
Another trend involves technology: 53% of practices have invested more in this space since the pandemic began, while 68% of practices intend to invest the same amount or more over the coming 12 months. These investments have been targeted at lifting practice efficiencies and improving the patient experience.
Meanwhile, the longstanding trend of practices diversifying their service offering has continued. The three most common services that practices have added since the pandemic are men’s health, counselling, and ‘other’ specialist services such as sleep conditions, dermatology and respiratory medicine.
Read the full report to benchmark your practice’s financial and operational metrics.
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