- On 05/05/2016
About seven years ago, it was quite clear that due to the inadequate indexation of rebates that we were either going to have to increase our throughput, and see more patients more quickly, or we could try to provide the service that we felt most comfortable providing, which would take more time.
Our practice has always been a family practice and we have a very stable patient base and we have generally tried to provide what we considered a fairly comprehensive level of service to our patients and this was not going to be possible with the trajectory that the rebates were taking.
So we decided to introduce private billing.
The treatment plan
The key thing was preparation. And that meant preparing the staff as well as preparing the patients. Honestly, it all went very, very smoothly.
The main obstacle was making sure we had the practice systems in place. And that meant having good billing software, making sure that the software is able to communicate with Medicare to allow us to process claims and send patients claims in from this location and therefore it was about training staff in the procedures.
We planned it well with the aid of the AMA private billing kit and we sent letters to patients, we had posters up for our patients and the patients were actually general quite supportive of the whole process.
There was no drop in patient numbers.
The financial sustainability part is nice, but the other benefits are probably even better. There’s been an improvement in the doctor morale to work in a place where they feel they are valued. And it does take the pressure off, as we can decide how we scale our fees and so we can charge an appropriate fee for the length of time that we spend with the patient.
And so what that means is instead of feeling any pressure to put patients through at a certain pace and we do need to see someone for longer we can book them for an appointment for longer in the knowledge that we can try to recoup those costs.
We have also expanded the range of services this practice has been able to provide by asking more allied health providers who share a similar vision of healthcare to us. And so we believe this allows us to provide a much better level of coordinated team based care.
In terms of technology, we’ve set up structures which allow patients to make online appointments. We are currently working with a provider to provide video consultations with patients and we have patients who have already started using these services with the allied health providers and very occasionally with the doctors, but this is in its infancy.
We’ve also spent more time and effort working on our digital presence. We’ve got a website which we are quite proud of, which explains our philosophies, who we are and what we do. But we’ve also expanded into developing a facebook presence which we have set up to provide and educational and new service to patients on health related matters. This is something we were driven to do due to the desire to provide reliable health related patient information.