The Australian Association of Practice Management, or AAPM, is the peak national association and professional body dedicated to supporting effective practice management in Australian healthcare.
We spoke with Miranda Grace, the Manager of Engagement and Member Services at the AAPM, about some of the unique challenges the organisation has faced over the past 18 months, as well as how they continue to advocate for Practice Managers nationwide.
Q: As one your longstanding partners, we love seeing the various ways in which you support your Practice Manager members. For readers who may not be familiar with AAPM and the services your association provides, can you provide a brief overview on the support and resources you provide?
A: We are dedicated to supporting effective practice management in the healthcare profession, and provide our valued AAPM members with a suite of resources to assist them in their day-to-day activities.
AAPM provides support through its membership team, dedicated HR Advisory Service, the online Practice Community Portal and in the development and coaching of career pathways. This recognises experience and qualifications for members to achieve a Certified Practice Manager status or Fellow as they develop in their career.
The Australian Association of Practice Management provides resources and support in the following key areas:
- Financial management
- Human resource management
- Business planning and marketing
- Risk management
- Governance and organisational dynamics
- Information technology management
- Business and clinical operations
- Professional responsibility
Q: What did you observe to be the greatest or most common challenge facing Practices in 2020, and how do you think that’ll shift in 2021 and 2022?
A: The single greatest challenge for Practices in 2020 and continuing through 2021 – 22 is Practice Managers’ mental health.
The COVID pandemic has had a significant effect on Practice Managers. Often in isolated roles, and the leader in the business, they take on their own personal challenges, together with that of the team and the Practice as a whole. This has seen many Practice Managers step away from their job, retire early or dedicate time to recruit new team members. All of these have significant impact, and we will see this over the next few years, particularly until most of the population have been able to receive their vaccine.
The above mental health impacts flow through to business revenues and in some cases, can cause Practices to close as operations become unviable. The new healthcare reform will further impact Practices over the coming years, however, until the COVID pandemic settles globally, this will be the greatest ongoing challenge for the foreseeable future.
Q: COVID-19 has obviously had a massive impact on our economy and nearly every business in Australia. Often in the face of adversity, innovation and opportunity are born. What have been some of the challenges Practice Managers have faced over the past year, and how have they adapted to overcome those challenges?
A: The silver lining for Practice Managers has been the agile and responsive approach from software vendors to Practices. Being able to deliver fast and practical solutions to allow for Practices to work effectively, even in remote locations, has shown the innovation available.
Physical treatment of patients has been a challenge for many Practices. The adoption of telehealth consultations has become increasingly popular and more practical than ever before. Again, Practice Managers have adapted their Practices, mostly with the assistance of their software provider to overcome this challenge.
Q: What percentage of your members are female and what percentage are male? Do you think female and male Practice Managers face different challenges, and if so, why do you think that is?
A: The profession has always attracted more females than males. At present, the AAPM has 91% female members and 9% male. Practice Managers experience the same challenges, regardless of their gender. The role of a Practice Manager is diverse and anyone who can juggle many things, show compassion, empathy, leadership, and all that goes with business management, succeeds in their chosen profession.
Q: Government initiatives have come down the pipeline fast and hard as of late (i.e. Active Ingredient Prescribing, Secure Messaging, ePrescribing, SafeScript, National Cancer Screening Register, My Health Record etc.). Which has challenged Practices the most and why? What have Practices looked forward to most?
A: The answer to the question is in the question – “government initiatives have come down the pipeline fast”. This has been incredibly challenging for Practice Managers to understand the changes, adopt and implement in a short amount of time.
Initiatives which provide a “toolkit” seem to be easier to digest and implement, however, when there are constant updates that also require software updates to take advantage of the tool, it presents further challenges.
Q: How has the shift to corporate ownership of Medical Practices impacted healthcare in your opinion and through your observations? Has it impacted the role of practice managers, and how so?
A: Corporate ownership has not had a significant impact on the role of Practice Managers. In many instances, the role of the Practice Manager is sought out more and regarded as a leading role in the business. In addition, this often leads to further career opportunities and growth in a Practice, and can offer a different type of experience to single or Doctor owned Practices.
The Australian Association of Practice Management has experienced growth in the recruitment of Corporate owned Practices becoming members.
Q: What is something that is right around the corner that many companies/organisations are not considering?
A: More technological solutions. Future patients are spoilt for choice with technological solutions, and Practice Managers and their Practices need to embrace this to remain competitive.
Q: We’ve recently seen criticism emerge in the news about the pace of the COVID vaccine rollout. What is your take on this?
A: It is a significant issue and challenge for everyone. There is limited firsthand experience in dealing with a pandemic and fast-tracking a vaccine rollout, however, the pace and process has been less than desirable. The changes to information, the shifting dates of deliverables adds to concern and lack of confidence.
Q: What are your go-to resources for all things Practice Management, that our readers could bookmark for themselves?
A: The AAPM website – aapm.org.au member portal. This is where to find the latest information and resources.
Q: What healthcare trends have you seen emerge over the past 1-2 years, and does this surprise you? Can you please elaborate on why this surprised you, or if it didn’t why that is?
A: The main trend has been telehealth and technological advances. This hasn’t surprised us, but it will be interesting to further watch its growth.
Q: Where do you see General Practice in 10 years’ time? What will be the biggest change?
A: Perhaps we will have a clinic on Mars? Perhaps it will be AI appointments?
GPs are the most frontline business when it comes to healthcare. This is changing and the pandemic has fast tracked this. The future will host far more technology supported services and the scope of development is as far as the imagination can take you.