The 3 steps to ensure coronavirus does not kill off your practice
(First published in Australian Doctor Magazine - June 2020) 

Framing pandemic problems as opportunities to overhaul your business will allow you to not only survive, but also thrive. 

COVID-19 is a crisis the likes of which most have not seen before - not least its impact on the business of running a GP practice.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t know how to recover, as it is usually only the crises that change, not the recovery processes required.

So here is a three-stage survival framework to help you ensure your practice is one that grows and not one that goes.


The crisis is here. During this step (which most of us are obviously in right now), there are a few important things to do to ensure you are in a position to respond effectively.

The main advice is to keep calm and carry on. Don’t make rash decisions. Consider your options. The worst thing you can do in a disaster is panic.

Take a step back, assess the situation and prioritise what needs to be actioned first.

The need to keep up-to-date with the changes is clearly important here.

This crisis has seen an unprecedented level of legislative and financial assistance from governments, banks and industry bodies.

Knowing what is out there and how to access it has been widely reported. But the headline announcements are one thing, the detail in the background is another.

So understanding how the specifics apply to you and your business is crucial.

A huge government stimulus is being made at both state and federal levels.

Yes, there is JobKeeper. But there is also the cashflow boost, payroll tax relief and deferral, government issued interest-free loans and land tax concessions. The list goes on and on.

There have also been industry changes for doctors, like the MBS telehealth items. Initially they were bulk bill only, then private billings could be made for specific patient groups. The big question now is whether all the new items will be around after COVID-19.
Changes to employment law have also seen the enactment of new stand-down provisions and the ability to reduce hours for permanent staff.

A question worth asking is how this interacts in the context of your practice with the JobKeeper and cashflow boost programs.

It is important to also understand the key risks and value drivers in your business.

Have you completed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your business?

Do you know where to start? What is the most important task you should do first?

Most business owners know what needs to be done, but it is difficult to know where to start. So undertaking an assessment of this can help you prioritise the order of what to do.

So make sure you talk to your advisers (accountants), your peers (business owner groups), industry experts (medical colleges and industry groups) and be armed with the latest (ever-changing) information.


Once you have kept a cool head and understand the changes, then you are ready to respond. This step is often the hardest, but also the one that will have the most impact.

Prioritise your response in order of need and concern using the SWOT analysis. You need to change the way you do business to adapt to the current environment.

You also need to consider if this is a short-term change for the period of the crisis, or a long-term change for the future. 

How you communicate this will need to be thought through. Clear messaging and communication removes doubt. You should also think about changing the things you should have revamped earlier.

In the iconic words of Winston Churchill: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

This is the time to make the changes that will improve your business but might not be popular for whatever reason.

A tough conversation with an unproductive staff member, rent negotiations, supplier conversations, contracting doctor problems, increased fees for undercharged services — these are hard problems at any time.

In a crisis, the decision moves from something you don’t want to do, to something you must do. Your own anguish and the judgement of others will be lessened in times of crisis.


A stronger, more agile business will be more likely to survive, while a business that is slow to act and ill-informed will be left behind.

And remember, no one ever said these steps for your survival can’t be implemented outside of a crisis. A successful business will continue to review what is working, and what’s not, and adapt its practices to succeed.

Perhaps if Churchill were advising us today, he might have said: “Don’t wait for a crisis to improve your business.”

If you have any questions regarding the above, contact Director of Business Services and Taxation, Brendan Campbell 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.

Disclaimer: This article contains information that is general in nature. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person or business.

Related Articles