Demand for general practice services is expected to grow, with one in two practices predicting higher patient numbers in the year ahead. Yet many practices are facing increasing financial and operational pressures as well as staff shortages. Notwithstanding these challenges, three in four general practitioners express confidence in conditions ahead, the report reveals.
CommBank Health CEO Albert Naffah said general practices were speeding up their adoption of digital solutions in response to these challenges, to improve practice efficiencies and enhance patient experiences.
“The digitisation of general practices is set to expand as healthcare managers do everything they can to improve accessibility and convenience of care,” Mr Naffah said.
“The vast majority of Australians are satisfied with the quality of care they receive, but patients are beginning to notice the flow-on effects of doctor shortages. With process efficiency, productivity, and patient convenience in sharper focus, most practices are turning to digital solutions such as CommBank Smart Health.”
Increasing efficiencies and patient experiences with digital solutions
According to the research, the fastest growing areas for digital adoption in the next two years include:
- Digital check-ins for patients when entering a practice
- Remote devices to monitor patient health
- Use of smart devices during consultations
- Data analytics to help practices monitor operational and financial performance
To address the need for greater efficiency, the most widely adopted digital solutions have included SMS and email reminders (86 per cent), payments and claiming platforms that integrate with practice management systems (82 per cent), and practice website booking options (78 per cent).
General practices putting patient care at the centre
The research shows patient visits surpassed pre-Covid levels for 47 per cent of practices by late 2022, and more than nine in 10 predict the same or higher patient volumes in the year ahead.
Fewer Australians rate themselves in very good or excellent health, down from 45 per cent to 36 per cent, and far higher for younger patients, supporting the demand outlook.
When engaging with their local general practice, more patients currently use the phone to make a booking, but most said they preferred online options (54 per cent) over calling (37 per cent) if they were available.
Top challenges for general practices
Meanwhile, operating costs for general practices are expected to increase for three in four general practices (78 per cent). The most common challenge for practices (69 per cent) in the next 12 months is the Medicare schedule fee running behind operating costs. A top priority for 60 per cent of practices is reviewing billing models to reduce the proportion of bulk billing.
Around 72 per cent of general practices also say staff shortages are holding back operational capacity and growth aspirations, more prominent among regional-based practices (84 per cent). General practices are focusing on people and culture as the top tactic to attract and retain staff. However just 26 per cent are planning to recruit more doctors in the year ahead.
Healthcare providers can now use CommBank Smart Health to process Medicare and private health insurance claims on-the-spot. Contactless claiming is also available for patients who have a digital membership card with participating healthcare funds.