- On 15/09/2016
AMA (NSW)’s Practice Management Adviser, Cathy Baynie, recently met with one Sydney general practice that is well on its way to completing its transition from bulk billing. While the practice has chosen not to be identified, the owners were happy to share their results.
Ms Baynie first met the practice owners in May 2016, following a Future Practice information evening.
Like many general practices, the owners felt forced to increase patient throughput in order to make the practice viable.
And while they were managing to keep the doors open, the strain of focusing on quantity over quality was draining and unfulfilling.
The model they chose
According to Ms Baynie, the business model they wanted to adopt was unique in that it combined two billing structures.
“The registrar and male doctor in the practice would remain bulk billing, whilst the two female doctors would commence introducing a fee for service from 1 July 2016. Taking into consideration the demographic of the practice, it was hoped that this would cater to both the transient patients and the loyal database. All were in agreement this was the best way forward,” Ms Baynie explained.
To help patients understand the changes, the practice produced a brochure explaining the practice fee structures. They also displayed AMA posters in the waiting room, which provided more information on the MBS freeze and how it’s affecting primary care. To help smooth the transition, the practice owner held team meetings with staff members and gave them the tools necessary to manage the bookings and enquiries from patients.
The doctors also decided to inform the patients themselves, as well as explain why the changes were necessary. After each patient had been addressed by their doctor, the following visit would be a private fee paying visit, which was easy to track in the practice software.
“The practice realised that the transition would take about three months, but were committed to this process,” Ms Baynie said.
How it’s going
Two months after they implemented the billing process, the practice owners met with Ms Baynie again.
“Happily, the results are promising,” she said. “The bulk billing doctors have retained their numbers with a slight increase for the registrar. The two female doctors report that while their numbers are down by about 20% their figures remain the same as the comparable reporting period for last year – both are happy to be working a little less frantically for the same income!”
The meeting with Ms Baynie did highlight the need for more staff training, with a focus on consistency of messaging.
Despite it still being early days, the owners are happy to report that the practice is continuing to grow and has employed another nurse.
See if a blended model is for you
The billing model that you choose will depend on a range of factors. Future Practice and the AMA NSW have developed a web tool to quickly and easily test the long-term financial sustainability of your practice. Check your practice now: