In only a matter of years, Ausdocs Holdings Group has expanded from one to 11 practices, with more than 100 staff and 80 partner doctors.
Dr Ali Issapour is the sole director focused on the strategy of the Group, supported by a consulting board and a CEO who leads the business. In growing and managing a large practice network, Dr Issapour has unique insights into strategies adopted in single practices or across the network.
Balancing the Group’s objectives with those of a diverse practice mix relies first on preserving the different brands, operating rhythms, and cultures. Having shared management, marketing, and clinical knowledge then brings an advantage that’s out of reach to individual practices.
Optimising technology adoption
The use of technology is key to ensuring streamlined operations across the Ausdocs practice network. Dr Issapour says the business reviews emerging technology opportunities to drive efficiencies, deliver a better experience for staff, and increase patient convenience and professionalism.
"One of our practices has been working with the Australian Digital Health Agency as part of Provider Connect Australia. The program aims to reduce the amount of paper in the administrative workflow. Practice managers and management teams are also investigating the benefits of improving online booking platforms."
Dr Issapour says the recent advancements in data analytics solutions like Cubiko are a significant step forward for the industry and the business. He says it gives practices access to real-time reporting and payments analytics features alongside business and patient care metrics, which supports efficiencies and better decision-making at a practice and Group level.
"We trained all our doctors, nurses, practice managers, and operational managers. They're using Cubiko to maximise operational visibility and efficiency. We are also seeking to integrate systems, bringing our practice management and financial platforms and data closer together.”
According to Dr Issapour, it is also essential to ensure that highly sensitive data and payment records are secure. "Not only do we have to take all reasonable steps to protect patient’s information, but we also need to prepare response plans so we can act quickly should a cyber threat emerge," he says.
Retaining valued workers
Due to its focus on improving the experience for everyone involved with the practice, Ausdocs enjoys outstanding loyalty and retention among its patients and staff. However, finding and attracting new people is fiercely competitive, prompting creative strategies.
For example, when Ausdocs acquires practices, it also focuses on retaining doctors rather than finding new ones for the newly acquired practices. "When we have acquired practices, we work proactively and collaboratively with the medical staff, Dr Issapour says.
“We encourage them to talk to previous doctors who sold us their practice or doctors who worked for us after we took over. We reassure them that the culture will not change, we don't touch the individuality of the practice, and if there are any changes, it mainly occurs behind the scenes."
From bulk to mixed billing
The current economic environment presents more significant challenges than retaining and attracting staff, says Dr Issapour. Especially for medical practices that still service patients who rely solely on access to bulk billed consultations.
Dr Issapour says the medical rebate needs to catch up with increasing interest rates, labour, and overhead costs. He says this is forcing many practices to revisit the viability of bulk billing.
“Currently, the Medicare Benefits System doesn't consider the business side of general practice. It still operates under the assumption that a $40 charge for 10 minutes of a doctor's time means a doctor has to see six patients an hour, which isn’t realistic or designed to produce the best health outcomes.”
“This current model doesn't consider that doctors have to pay themselves a percentage of the rebate, along with rent, staff wages, utility bills and supplies for the practice. This provides the practice with little margin to put aside for other business needs.”
Patient education and transparency
Ausdocs has been transitioning a couple of its practices from bulk billing to mixed billing services. However, the business has maintained transparency with patients to help them fully understand and appreciate why this is happening.
“Many practices are moving to a varied fee schedule, and the population's awareness of inflationary conditions is high. Our experience is that patients are appreciative of the reason behind the move. Still, part of that is being proactive in explaining and communicating with them about the changes," added Dr Issapour.