With technology enhancements helping deliver virtual consultations, patient numbers have rebounded following a dip amid the first lockdown in 2020. Almost one in two (49 per cent) patients said they now intend to visit a GP at least once every two months, up from 39 per cent in 2020.
Although these technological advancements have helped some patients to once again feel comfortable about meeting with their doctor, they have come at a cost. Almost 50 per cent of practices indicated their operating expenses have risen in the last 12 months. One third (35 per cent) of practices suggested the telehealth consultations have negatively impacted their profits, while 28 per cent said the vaccination rollout was putting downward pressure on their revenue.
Albert Naffah, CEO of CommBank Health, said GPs continue to play a crucial role in the pandemic, and Australians have noticed.
“Almost all Australians agree GPs have adapted well to the conditions making it easier for patients to overcome the anxiety we saw in 2020 and return to their preferred practice. However, for many practices, income associated with more patient visits need to be weighed against rising costs, including greater access to technology, as well as the impact of vaccinations and telehealth.”
Co-founder of Scale My Clinic, (providing business training for GP clinic owners), Dr Todd Cameron, added: “Technology is essential to practices’ growth aspirations. You can now have a work from anywhere GP. That dramatically changes the systems you would set up for a GP. Additionally, patients’ telehealth experience during the pandemic has altered their expectations.”
The research also revealed that the GP is the destination of choice for the majority of patients seeking the coronavirus vaccine (56 per cent), with almost three in four GPs already administering vaccines, and a further 12 per cent planning to do so.
“Among the myriad of challenges that GPs have faced during the pandemic is the rapid rollout of telehealth consultations and the national vaccination campaign, with patients applauding GPs for their efforts in both areas. Although challenges remain, many GPs are optimistic about the future,” Mr Naffah said.