Is this the key to less stressful practice admin?
(First published in Australian Doctor Magazine - September 2020)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that GP’s don’t enjoy practice administration activities. Not only do they require the investment of time and energy, both of which are in short supply, but they can also serve as a distraction from the more important time spent with patients. 

At worst, the tasks of juggling staffing rosters, paperwork, doctors’ pay and accounts administration can lead practice owners to focus inwardly, leaving little time for moving the practice forward. 

So imagine for one moment a possible future.

It’s Monday morning, just before your weekly practice meeting. You pick up your smartphone and flick through the practice metrics for last week, drilling down into the numbers and graphs that interest you the most. 

You examine the contribution of each of your doctors and can quickly identify where the team needs coaching or education on issues like Medicare billing. 

You then receive a notification that the doctors’ billing and service fees for last fortnight have all been calculated and processed, and you can check the online roster for staff this coming week, approving and adjusting quickly and easily to meet expected demands. 

You have the confidence that all the patient billing has been captured and reconciled, and you are already seeing the improvement in the practice bottom line. 

You have even identified an area of growth for the practice that you hadn’t seen before — skin cancer checks.

A present reality 

This is not a utopian vision. It is possible in the here and now.

There is no doubt that a trusted and efficient practice manager is worth their weight in gold. Even so, they can struggle to provide the right support in the absence of the right practice technology platform extracting the right information.

There are several technology solutions available right now that solve some of the major administrative sinkholes in general practice. 

So you should be considering their place in your practice. 

Integrating the practice management and accounting systems 

Clinical billing platforms operate independently of financial accounting systems. Rarely does a true reconciliation between systems occur, and if done manually, it is incredibly time-consuming. 

The lack of reconciliation introduces the risk of incorrect doctor payments or misappropriation of funds. This is a significant financial and Medicare audit risk in general practice.

Solutions exist which integrate practice management software with widely used accounting platforms, automating the transfer of data at a transactional level and removing the double handling of information.

In addition to reducing processing costs, these solutions also bring a greater degree of systemisation and significantly reduce the risk of fraud. 

It is also important to stress the privacy issue; this kind of integration doesn’t involve confidential patient data being pulled through into the accounting system. 

Automating the doctor payment system 

The manual calculation of payments to your associate doctors, the calculation of service fees and the resulting paperwork can consume days every fortnight in a large practice. All too often, mistakes are made and everyone is unhappy.

The good news is that this whole process can be almost fully automated, reducing the fortnightly investment from days to minutes. Invoices can be delivered automatically, and payments batched and processed, with full drill-down capacity to transaction-level reporting.

Managing the data flow 

Every practice management system contains a wealth of useful data, which, if mined correctly, can identify pockets of untapped potential to grow, or identify blockages to that growth. 

Session utilisation, under-billing, incorrect billing, patient follow-up needs, staff-to-doctor ratios, appointment optimisation — all of this is available by doctor and by time period, right now with the right technology platforms. 

These tools enable the savvy practice owner to start to track the pulse of their clinic and make informed strategic decisions that will transform performance and outcomes.

Staff management 

It can be easy to over-invest in administration and reception staff, or struggle to find the right mix of nursing staff to doctors. 

Add to this the administrative burden of managing the payroll for a flexible workforce, and many practice owners will just throw up their hands. 

Make sure you invest in a payroll solution that can handle rostering, teams, budgets, multiple locations and award management — they exist, and will both streamline your processes and mitigate the risks of incorrect wage calculations.

Pulling it all together 

The technology landscape continues to evolve rapidly, and new entrants, new integrations and changes to platform functionality must be regularly reviewed to ensure the choices are right for you. 

There are numerous platforms on the market. Some that we consider worth the time to review include Surgical Partners for reconciliation of billings and automating doctor pay calculations, Cubiko for data analytics and practice insights, and TANDA for rostering and attendance. But there are many more.

The future of practice management is here now, with the right technology platform and solutions.

Progressive practices are implementing these solutions and experiencing the benefits — we believe you should be too.

If you have any questions regarding the above, contact Director of Business Services and Taxation, Stephen Guthrie at Alternatively, we have Specialist Health Sector Advisers in each of our offices. If you would like to speak to one in your location, call 1300 795 515.

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