Feature Requests & Enhancements – What Happens to Them?

Best Practice Software Feature Request Process

Product enhancement and Best Practice Software feature requests are received frequently from our engaged user base, and often fuel our development roadmap. From time to time, we have users enquire about the request they’ve submitted and how it’s progressing.

As a customer-centric organisation, we highly value engagement with our customers and the insights it provides us. In a similar vein, we’ll shed light on our internal, end-to-end process for receiving, reviewing and prioritising these requests, to demystify what happens when you submit a request.

Being a Customer-Centric Organisation Means Listening to Users

First let’s talk a bit about what it means to be a customer-centric organisation. 

From the very first line of code that was written at Best Practice Software, customers have been at the heart of what we do. Our founders set out to solve some of the challenges our customers and Practices experience each day. It’s the reason why our motto, ‘designed by a doctor, for doctors’ is a key pillar in our organisation.

A lot has happened since that first line of code was written in 2004, but our customer-centric ethos has remained unchanged. So, let’s talk more about how we listen to our valued customers and what we do with the insights, feedback, enhancement and feature requests that we receive.

You Tell Us, We Listen - A Multi-Channel Approach to Receiving Requests

The world keeps changing, and new challenges arise, which consequently generates new ideas and requirements. This is also why product development does not stop. A great way for us to keep up with change and understand the ever-changing needs of our customers is to listen.

Listening to the voice of our customers is not a “single lane” approach. It takes multiple channels and methods through different interaction points that occur between us and the users. The important piece that ties everything together is that the feature enhancements are logged into the same product review backlog. Here’s an example of what a multi-channel approach means to us.

Multi-channel Approach to Listening to Customers:

  • Sales
    • Customer enhancement requests that we receive through sales interactions and account management are logged and placed into review.
  • Support
    • Like sales, feature requests received by support also get logged into the same review process.
  • Marketing
  • Beta testing customers
    • Feedback from beta customers is incredibly important, as it not only provides us with feedback on new features, it serves as another channel for us to receive suggestions and ideas for feature enhancements as well.
  • Product customer interviews
    • As part of our product development processes including User Experience (UX), we conduct interviews to gain insight on how customers use our products, potential pain points they experience, and to identify how we can best improve a feature in development. Feature enhancement requests in this channel are either incorporated directly into the design, or if the enhancement suggestion relates to another feature, we’d then log the request and/or provide it directly to the team members who manage that area of the product.
  • Product feedback tools
    • Some of our products provide a mechanism to submit feature enhancement requests directly from the product, or a link to send us the feedback.

Reviewing, Determining Value and Prioritising Feature Requests and Enhancements

Feature enhancement requests are incredibly important to us, as they not only provide us with an opportunity to improve a feature, but they also give us new insights into how customers are using the product, which changes alongside evolving user needs.

Every feature enhancement request we receive is carefully reviewed and considered by our Product team. While some make it onto our development roadmap, others are added to a log for future consideration. This is always a balancing act, as we need to evaluate whether a feature enhancement suits the majority of users, a user discipline or a user group. Sometimes an idea can be great, but it may only suit a very specific need and could potentially impact other users. When reviewing and prioritising requests, we take the following steps:

  1. Validation
    • Review the problem being solved and why it should be built
    • How will the request enhance / improve a feature and how it will help users?
  2. User Patterns
    • Does the feature enhancement help the majority of users, a discipline, user group, or only one/specific user?
  3. Clinical review (if applicable)
    • If the feature enhancement is clinical, then our clinical committee needs to assess risk and any other clinical factors involved.  
  4. Requirements & Scope
    • Identify the requirements needed to build the feature enhancement.
    • Determine scope of the feature enhancement.
  5. Feasibility & Effort
    • Estimate the effort and feasibility of building the feature enhancement.
  6. Value and backlog priority
    • Based on the factors above, determine a value for the feature enhancement and prioritise it with other requests in the backlog.
  7. Decision
    • Based on the above, make a decision whether the feature enhancement should be approved, rejected or flagged to be reviewed and considered again in the future.
    • If approved for development, establish its priority in relation to other approved items on the roadmap.

All requests, whether they are approved or not, are maintained in a log, allowing us to revisit them anytime, and to identify any growing trends for a certain feature requests. What might not be feasible to build or prioritise right now, might still be a relevant enhancement down the track. 

Our staff also contribute valuable ideas and suggestions, based on their interactions with customers, industry insights and/or product expertise. 

One of the key challenges of any software development organisation is determining value and prioritising the backlog. The priority of each feature enhancement request needs to be evaluated against other features already in development, features sitting in backlog, bugs, regulatory changes, industry, and government initiatives. This determines when a feature enhancement can be built.

Keep Them Coming!

I hope you enjoyed this insight into how much we value customer feedback, listen to our customers’ requests, and our process for reviewing and actioning your suggestions. To send us enhancement suggestions, new feature requests, or let us know about any challenges you may be facing, utilise this enquiry form on our website

Keep helping us improve our products, which are ultimately built for you!

Authored by:

henry vesander feature requests blog author image

Henry Vesander
Manager of Product Management at Best Practice Software

Changes to the Closing the Gap PBS Co-Payment

PBS co-payment closing the gap blog image

From 1 July 2021, changes to the Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS Co-payment have taken effect. These changes will allow patients eligible for the co-payment relief to benefit from cheaper medicines, or free medicines if they have a concession or health care card, under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Previously, only Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders living with, or at risk of, chronic diseases were eligible for the CTG PBS Co-payment program. After 1 July, however, patients will be eligible if they meet the following criteria:

  • Self-identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian
  • Will have setbacks in preventing or managing their condition if they don’t take the medicine
  • Are unlikely to keep up their treatment without help with the cost
  • Are enrolled with Medicare

To support these changes and make the registration process easier, Services Australia has introduced a national registration database where patients must be registered to receive these co-payment benefits. Patients who were previously registered will have their registrations transferred to the new database, and nothing further will be required from them.

Only PBS prescribers and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health practitioners (who are registered with both AHPRA & Medicare) will be able to add new registrations to the national database via the Health Professional Online Service (HPOS) once they have received consent from eligible patients.

For Bp Premier users, there will be no changes to workflows within the system. Eligible patients will still need to have their ethnicity recorded, and the ‘Registered for CTG PBS Co-payment Relief’ checkbox must be ticked in the patient’s demographic window.

PBS Co-payment article ethnicity field screenshot

For prescribers using Bp Premier, prescriptions created in Bp Premier will have the relevant alpha numeric code included, such as ‘CTG00B’, on both paper and electronic prescriptions. For handwritten prescriptions, prescribers can include the letters ‘CTG’ along with their initials or signature. While annotation is not a legal requirement, it will help pharmacists in dispensing the medicine.

Further information on changes to the Closing the Gap PBS Co-payment can be found on Services Australia’s website.

Authored by:

Jessica White Author Blog Picture

Jessica White
Manager of Commercial and Customer Enablement at Best Practice Software

An Interview With AAPM (Australian Association of Practice Management)

Bp_Blog_AAPM Interview

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.

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?

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

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?

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.

Quote box infographic mental health of practice managers

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

What is something that is right around the corner that many companies/organisations are not considering?

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.

Australian association of practice management quote box infographic adapting technology into practices

We’ve recently seen criticism emerge in the news about the pace of the COVID vaccine rollout. What is your take on this?

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.

What are your go-to resources for all things Practice Management, that our readers could bookmark for themselves?

The AAPM website – aapm.org.au member portal.

This is where to find the latest information and resources.

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?

The main trend has been telehealth and technological advances. This hasn’t surprised us, but it will be interesting to further watch its growth.

Where do you see General Practice in 10 years’ time? What will be the biggest change?

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.

Best Practice Software would like to thank Miranda Grace and the Australian Association of Practice Management for contributing to this article. For more information on the AAPM or the resources and services they provide, you can visit their website here.

Key Take-Aways from the 2021 RACGP Practice Owners Conference

RACGP Practice Owners Conference Blog Image

The RACGP Practice Owners Conference for 2021 took place in Brisbane on the 19th and 20th of June. The event was incredibly educational and covered a breadth of topics, all presented by a diverse panel of thought-provoking experts in their respective fields.

During the first day of the conference, I was able to attend sessions on the following topics:

  • The evolution of a consumer-driven primary care clinic
  • Developing KPIs for your Practice
  • How to optimise your outcome from a sale or partial sale
  • Using product thinking in general practice to create a successful clinic for the future
  • Using data to improve business efficiencies and patient outcomes
  • Medical compliance; an overview
During the second day, I made it to these sessions:
 
  • How to structure your Practice & premises purchase
  • How to unlock the value of your Practice
  • Digital tools of the trade
  • Marketing digital strategies
Each of these sessions were engaging and provided plenty of food for thought across extensive bodies of knowledge. After having a few days to process what I’d seen and heard at the RACGP Practice Owners Conference, here are my key take-aways from the event.

The Future

The future of healthcare will need to be:

  • Individualised
  • Intelligently designed to enable successful patient outcomes
  • Co-ordinated
  • Co-joined
  • Compassionate and respectful

Practice Challenges

The five biggest challenges Practice owners face are:

  • General Practitioner availability
  • Practice revenue is not keeping up with increases in costs
  • Keeping up with constant compliance and regulatory changes
  • Remaining competitive in the face of competition
  • Finding time to work on the Practice, when they’re not working in it

Economics and Financial Health

Practices have three main methods in which they can drive profits:

  • They can sell more
  • They can charge more
  • They can pay less

Here are some interesting statistics to do with maintaining the financial health of a Practice:

  • Practices will typically charge 35-45% of their GPs gross takings
  • The typical net profit margin for a clinic is anywhere from 2-7.5%
  • Non-doctor revenue can be between 16-19%
  • A solid staffing ratio for Practices is 1 GP : 0.4 Nurses : 0.9 Admin staff – from this, how are Practices ensuring that their workforce is optimised based on the number of practicing GPs each day?

Marketing Position & Ease of Doing Business

Clinics need to understand their position in the market and their business models. This is especially important with regards to scale vs specialisation. There are a number of levers that clinics can utilise to differentiate themselves in the market:

  • Price
  • Speed
  • Convenience
  • Patient experience
  • The reputation of individual doctors
  • Being a ‘one-stop shop’
  • Proximity to retail outlets
  • Community connections
  • Ease of accessibility

It is also important for Practices to consider how easy it is for patients to do business with their clinics. To accurately assess this, Practices need to understand their current end-to-end patient journey, ensuring they are meeting their patients’ evolving needs. This is something we covered in a recent blog article on the topic of Healthcare Consumerism.

It’s critical for Practices to remember that it is much easier to improve their service for existing customers, than trying to capture new ones.

Understand Your Customer

A key theme present at the RACGP Practice Owners Conference was that Practices need to ensure that they understand their customers.

What problems are your customers facing? Of these, which are the most important? Do you have a solution to these problems? It is recommended that Practices regularly validate and test their hypotheses on how those problems can be solved.

A strong indicator that you have a good understanding of your market is when you are receiving positive recommendations, and have a healthy number of sale volumes.

Above all, Practices need to remember that they can’t be all things to all people. Decide early on which segments of the community you’re trying to service, and focus on those segments.

Measuring Success

Measure the metrics that matter to you, while ensuring that those metrics are practical and support your business model. In addition, don’t misallocate your KPIs, and always make sure that there is a clear link between your targets, and how you measure them.

When considering metrics for success, many Practices focus on the past. This isn’t always helpful, as you can’t change the past! Focus on what needs to be changed for the future, and how you can measure the progress towards those objectives.

When measuring success, break your business down into parts. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How profitable is each part?
  • Is each part worth doing?
  • How can one area of the business support another?
  • Are we using appropriate benchmarks? (are you comparing apples to apples? or apples to oranges?)
  • Pilot initiatives and measure their effectiveness. If those initiatives are delivering success, persist with them. If not, stop and reassess, then pivot

Use Data to Drive Positive Outcomes

It’s critical that Practices know where their data is coming from. A Practice can generate value from triangulating Practice, financial, HR/Rostering and MBS data.

However, not all data is equal. Just because the data is there, does not mean it’s going to be insightful in developing Practice value.

According to an interview with Cubiko, here is a list of what data Practices will want to track:

  • Total number of billings (vs the Practice budget)
  • Average wait times (week-on-week)
  • Bulk billing (week-on-week)
  • Utilisation of appointments – booked vs available vs admin
  • The number of appointments vs billing – ideally in a 4×4 matrix
  • Last week vs forecast with regards to recalls and reminders, and telehealth
  • Room utilisation
  • No Shows
  • The cost of each appointment and net profit from billings, more specifically:
        • Don’t always look backwards at what previous appointments have cost you, look forwards to what appointments are going to cost you
        • How much of your diary is booked? If you have large gaps between appointments, consider why
        • Look at your roster of doctors, and consider your ratios to nurses and admin staff. Does it make sense?
        • Benchmarking – internal benchmarking is powerful, If possible, find a sister Practice that is similar and partner with them to benchmark your performance. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples!

Consider Your Technology as a Tool of the Trade

Recent trends have shown that patients want greater control over their data. Practices need to better utilise digital tools to engage with their patients.

  • Websites – Have they had their day? Make sure your Practice website is designed for your patients, and not focused on your business
  • Social Media – Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are great mechanisms to connect with peers and share your business best practices, helping you to work towards positive patient outcomes. Social media is also a great tool to gauge market sentiment
  • Telehealth – How do we leverage telehealth for follow-ups? Telehealth has given us an opportunity to forge our future on how to better interface with patients. For example, can telehealth be used by metropolitan Practices to support rural sites?
  • My Health Record – GPs were once the custodians of their community’s medical records. Now, that data is available for people to control. As an example, mothers and fathers can now help in their children’s journey – this is especially true for initiatives like the NDIS.
  • eOrdering – Coming soon, and coming quickly. Pathology and radiology providers are coming online and enabling eOrdering. Patients receive an electronic token, and the tests go straight back to the GP.
  • What else is on the horizon?
        • Provider Connect Australia – A new system that, once information is entered, will be a single point of reference. However, service directories have been an issue in the past.
        • Home Monitoring – Is virtual care something that’s in the future?

The RACGP Practice Owners Conference provided attendees with some incredibly valuable information for the present and future of the healthcare industry in Australia.

The past few years have been unprecedented in how global events have impacted healthcare, and now more than ever it’s crucial that Practices take control of their businesses and ensure viability and success for the years ahead.

Authored by:

RACGP Practice Owners Conference Peter Polacek Author Blog Image

Peter Polacek
Product Manager at Best Practice Software

Third-Party Integrations for Your Software – 10 Key Considerations Before Implementation

Integration with Best Practice Software blog image

With our Bp Partner Network reaching over 100 partners, there are many fantastic third-party software solutions to choose from that offer integration with Best Practice Software products, whether it’s Bp Premier, Bp VIP.net or Bp Allied. And with choice comes the responsibility and necessity to ensure you have selected the right tools, to meet the ever-changing needs and growth of your business.

But with so many options available, how do you ensure that you are using the right one? Let’s explore 10 key considerations to think about when selecting a new product or reviewing products currently being used by your Practice.

Circular infographic showing 10 steps to consider prior to integration with Best Practice Software

Identify the Problem You are Trying to Solve

Before you consider purchasing third-party software to complement your Practice management system, it is important that you clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve. Sometimes this requires input from all staff operating in the Practice to ensure that the product chosen meets the needs of your business.

For example:

  • Are you trying to save time?
  • Are you trying to save money?
  • Are you looking to improve internal workflows?
  • Are you looking to improve the patient experience?
  • Do you need to introduce a product to compete with other businesses?
  • Do you need to reduce medico-legal risk?
  • Is the product required to expand your business offering? Meet new legislation?

We recommend that your problem statement is agreed to by all relevant stakeholders in your business before moving through to the next step.

Gather Your Requirements

Now that you have defined your problem statement, you can start documenting your requirements. This is an important process, as this will provide a framework for you to assess each third-party product and its integration with Best Practice Software products. Some key points to consider when documenting your requirements are:

  • Ensure that your requirements reflect your identified problem statement
  • How much are you willing to invest in the solution? Licensing/training/support?
  • What licensing terms are you comfortable with? Fixed term/flexible?
  • Is this product needed by a certain date?
  • Document your end-to-end workflow requirements, ensuring you think about both Practice and patient requirements
  • If connecting to a Bp product, ensure that the vendor is part of the Bp Partner Network, otherwise the solution won’t integrate with your practice management system
  • Consider documenting any Australian and state based legislation that you want to ensure the product meets, such as the Privacy Act, or Anti-Spam laws

Put Together a Rating System

Before you can adequately assess third-party integration options for your practice management system, we recommend putting together a rating system. This system will document the extent to which each product in review meets your requirements. To do this, we recommend putting requirements into a spreadsheet and during the product review process indicating to what extent each product meets your needs.

As a first step, we recommend you indicate the degree of importance of each requirement, for example:

  • Extremely important
  • Important
  • Somewhat important
  • Neutral

We recommend rating each requirement as:

  • Exceeded = 3 points
  • Fully met = 2 points
  • Partially met = 1 point
  • Did not meet/Below expectation = 0

Gather and Analyse Products

Now that you understand your problem statement, requirements, and have a rating system in place, you are ready to scan the market for potential products and start the review process. Before booking a time with each vendor to complete your full analysis, ask them some top line questions to ensure that they are suitable.

We also recommend including your PMS (Practice Management System) in this analysis piece, as some of your key requirements may be able to be delivered through existing functions and features that you may not have been aware of.

Vendor/Product Agreement

Once you have completed your analysis and determined your front runner, you will need to move through to the contract/agreement/licensing phase. There are a number of important items that should be considered as part of this process:

  • How long is the agreement for? What are the termination terms?
  • Is their pricing model clear? Are there any hidden costs?
  • What support is being offered and it is clearly documented?
  • What are your obligations versus the vendor’s?
  • Have you read and understood their terms and conditions?
  • Have you read and understood their privacy policy?
  • Do they comply with federal and state laws, e.g. Privacy Act?

Complete Communication and Change Management Process

Prior to implementing any new solutions that offer integration with Best Practice Software products or workflows, we suggest engaging your internal staff to ensure that they clearly understand the scope of the implementation, the role they play, the value to the business and how they will be supported through this process.

If the product being implemented will also be used by your patients, we suggest communicating with them early in the process to ensure that they are also adequately engaged. Communications can occur in writing, verbally or even visually using posters and notices within your Practice.

Update Internal & External Artefacts

Prior to implementing a new product, we recommend that Practices review their internal and external artefacts. Some examples of these include:

  • Internal policies
  • Work instructions
  • Checklists
  • Your Practice website
  • Other external websites/directories that may reference your Practice
  • Patient registration forms

Conduct Staff Training

Training is critical to the successful implementation of any new product or workflow being introduced at your Practice. We recommend that all impacted staff are trained prior to the implementation occurring and that supporting documents and instructions are prepared in advance. We recommend identifying a ‘super user’ at the Practice who can assist with internal staff queries and escalate to the software vendor if required.

Additional training may be required post-implementation and with future releases of the product. It is important to keep across these changes and to take advantage of the documentation and training being provided by the vendor.  

Review and Measure

It is always important to review your products to ensure they are meeting your requirements. This can be easily achieved by revisiting your initial problem statement and documented requirements to ensure that they are being met. In some instances, your business may have also changed, along with your requirements, and it is important that these are communicated with your vendor.

Also consider what other metrics can be used to measure the success of the implemented product.

For example:

  • If your goal was to reduce Practice spend, did this occur?
  • If you goal was to increase patient numbers, did this occur?
  • If your goal was to introduce efficiencies within the Practice, did this occur?
  • If your goal was to decrease the number of ‘no show’ appointments, did this occur?

Having data to demonstrate the success or failure of a product will assist with any discussions you are having with your vendor.

Look For New Opportunities

With new third-party products that offer integration with Best Practice Software coming onto the market frequently, we always recommend that you keep on top of what offerings are available in the market. This is particularly important as your business changes and grows, your requirements change and new products enter the market with new functionality and potentially a better pricing offering!

The best way to keep across new solutions available for your product is to check the integration section on your respective Practice management system webpage:

Visiting our Bp Partner Network web page, engaging with peers via your peak bodies, and other platforms such as online forums and blogs can also help keep you abreast of new solutions on the market.

We also recommend keeping across the new features and functions being delivered by your PMS by reading Release Notes and attending relevant training to better understand what they have available.

If you have any questions regarding the above information, our Commercial Partnership Team can be contacted via partners@bpsoftware.net

Authored by:

Jessica White Author Blog Picture

Jessica White
Manager of Commercial & Customer Enablement at Best Practice Software

The 2020 RACGP Health of the Nation Report

RACGP 2020 Health of the Nation Report Blog Image

Each year, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), conducts a range of surveys and collates data from nationwide sources to generate an insight into the state of general practice in Australia. From this, the annual Health of the Nation report is produced and published.

Given the tumultuous events of the past several years in Australia, beginning with a spate of bushfires in late 2019, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic from early 2020 to the present day, the RACGP 2020 Health of the Nation report has presented some stark differences when compared to prior editions.

This article summarises some of the findings from the 2020 Health of the Nation report, primarily those relating to current and emerging issues, telehealth, the funding of Australian general practice care, and the business and economics of a general practice.

Common Health Presentations in General Practice

Unsurprisingly, issues relating to the 2019-2020 bushfires and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic were represented heavily when considering common reasons for presenting to GPs in 2020. Psychological issues including depression and anxiety remained the most prevalent, with 64% of surveyed GPs listing psychological issues among their top three most common reasons for patients presenting.

Preventive care, primarily comprised of vaccinations and health screenings, rose to the second most prevalent reason for presenting to a GP. This was largely due to the government drive to encourage early vaccinations for things like the seasonal flu to avoid heaping more stress onto the healthcare system during the pandemic. It’s interesting to note that while vaccinations increased, preventive health screenings dropped, likely as patients were not presenting for usual care among COVID-19 directives.

The Mental Health Impact of Natural Disasters

For the fourth year running, the RACGP 2020 Health of the Nation report has listed psychological issues as the single most prevalent reason that Australians are presenting to GPs.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entirety of the Australian population to some degree, young Australians have been impacted most heavily, with female patients being disproportionately affected within that subset.

Infographic on mental health impact from RACGP Health of the Nation Report

But it is not just patients being negatively affected – healthcare workers were similarly affected. While 43% of GPs reported no impact to their wellbeing, 57% reported a negative change to their wellbeing with regards to either physical health, being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance or managing their mental health.

This is of particular concern, as GPs have, for the past several years, ranked managing their own wellbeing as one of the top three challenges for being able to provide consistent, high-quality patient care.

Issues Requiring Policy Action

When it comes to policy issues that GPs believe require action, MBS patient rebates are the most significant area of priority for the fourth consecutive year with more than 40% of surveyed GPs placing it in their top three issues for policy action.

Consideration for mental health services remains the second most identified area for Australian Government priority, while a focus on creating new funding models for primary healthcare rounds out the top three most significant issues.

However, the priorities of GPs working in Aboriginal Medical Services did vary slightly. For GPs working in these communities, social and cultural determinants of health equity and equality held particular concern, with 33% and 31% respectively noting these issues in their top two policy concerns.

A Critical Issue in Focus - Pandemic Response

When it came to considering the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic, the survey showed mixed opinions.

On one hand, many GPs supported the government’s initial response, with one in two GPs labeling the response either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ with regards to ensuring the safety of GPs and their Practice teams.

GPs were also quick to acknowledge that amid a pandemic, the need for telehealth was identified quickly and acted upon – with the government quickly providing funding to support the model of care.

However, many GPs also noted that much more could have been done in the early stages of the pandemic and throughout its progression to support frontline healthcare workers. A particular challenge and area of concern was accessing personal protective equipment (PPE). Eight out of 10 GPs surveyed believed that the government could have done much better in providing Practices with PPE when they needed it most.

Of the many challenges faced by GPs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the inability to provide their usual standard of care to patients ranked the most highly, with the aforementioned lack of access to PPE following closely behind, with a notable number of GPs citing the constantly changing MBS rules as a cause of concern also.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic to consider when looking at the pandemic response holistically is the percentage of Australians that visited a GP. During 2019-2020, 87.4% of Australians visited a GP, which was the lowest rate seen in the country since 2014-2015. This is likely due to a significantly decreased number of patients presenting for usual care while they were being encouraged to isolate at home, or socially distance under COVID-19 directives.

A Fast-Tracked Adoption of Telehealth

When social distancing measures and stay-at-home mandates were implemented, telehealth quickly became the standard by which GPs would continue to be able to offer consultations while still being able to protect themselves, their patients and Practice staff.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 17% of GPs surveyed had used telehealth to deliver a consultation – 4% via video, and 13% over the phone. During the pandemic however, 30% of GPs conducted at least one telehealth consultation over video, and 96% conducted a consultation over the phone.

When asked about their thoughts on the initiative, 67% of GPs reported a positive change in their attitude towards telehealth, with only 10% noting a negative shift in attitude.

Those that felt positively about it noted that telehealth allowed them to see their patients more regularly and in a timely manner, which often led to patients discussing health concerns as they arose, rather than ‘saving them all up’ and attempting to fit each concern into a single consult. In addition, GPs noticed an increased feeling of safety and security in patients being able to consult with them in their own home. This was of particular benefit for mental health consultations and some forms of counselling.

Among those who felt negatively towards telehealth, the primary reason was that they felt telehealth presented limitations to the provision of patient care, and that telehealth should complement, not replace, face to face consultations.

7 out of 10 GPs believe that a continuation of telehealth consultations post-pandemic is possible, and it would continue to support patient access to high-quality care in general Practice. However, many noted that telehealth should only be made available to patients already known to the Practice and should only be available for specific types of consults; repeat scripts, discussing uncomplicated test results, some forms of counselling, and referrals.

Government Contribution to Patient Services

Australian government contributions to patient services continues to be an area of concern for general Practice. While most patient care in Australia is being delivered in the general Practice sector, the overwhelming majority of government healthcare expenditure is in hospitals.

In 2017-18, state and federal governments spent approximately $52 million in the hospital sector, while unreferred medical services (which is primarily general Practice), received a little over $11 million, with almost the entire expenditure coming solely from the federal government.

Infographic showing percentage of total health expenditure from the RACGP Health of the Nation Report

Across both state and federal governments, the total expenditure on general Practice is approximately 7.5% of the nation’s total health expenditure.

The Australian government’s expenditure on healthcare, as a share of our gross domestic product (GDP), is lower than almost all other developed countries with a similar primary care focused system.

Trends in General Practice Billing

The 2020 RACGP Health of the Nation report showed the following bulk billing trends in 2019-2020:

Infographic showing percentage of bulk billing by state from the RACGP Health of the Nation report

The report did note, however, that patients may receive multiple services when visiting their GP, and that some of those services may be bulk billed, while others are billed privately.

Nationally, the proportion of patients who have all GP services bulk billed is rising, but in several states the rate is in decline. It is also interesting to note that while the number of bulk billed services has increased year on year, each year the rate of increase slows further.

Business and Income Challenges in General Practice

General Practice as a business is a key part of the Australian healthcare sector, worth over $13b annually to the Australian economy, and employing more than 100,000 people nationwide.

When consulting GP Practice owners about the most common challenges they face, respondents nearly unanimously agreed that maintaining a healthy work-life balance, maintaining a steady income, and sourcing and retaining quality staff were at the top of their list of concerns.

GP Practice owners working in regional, rural, or remote areas were still concerned with managing a work-life balance and steady income but are comparatively more concerned with ensuring the ongoing delivery of high-quality care to patients from disadvantaged backgrounds.

GPs and Practice owners noted that at a time when the country needed their services most, many were faced with a lack of job security. In a survey conducted in May of 2020, 71% of GPs reported that their income was lower than the same time the previous year, with 25% of those reporting a much lower income. Only 5% of GPs reported a higher income than the previous year.

When asked for their thoughts on the main contributing factors for the reduction in income, 83% cited fewer patients presenting for care among stay-at-home directives. 70% also indicated that while telehealth consultations did allow patients to still present to their GP, the requirement to bulk bill these telehealth consultations contributed significantly to a reduction in income. Approximately 50% of GPs surveyed agreed that the removal of mandatory bulk billing of telehealth services would improve the viability and sustainability of their Practice.

There were a range of other reasons cited for reduced income revenue – these included reduced rental income, reduced work hours, changing circumstances and generally increased demands in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practice Ownership

The trend in Australian Practice ownership continues to shift towards more heavily towards multi-partner and corporate arrangements. Broadly speaking however, GP interest in owning a Practice is relatively low, even more so amongst women. Just over a quarter of Practices operate in conjunction with other businesses, with 28% of GPs surveyed reporting that their Practice was networked with another site, often sharing human resources, payroll, marketing, or clinical governance arrangements.

infographic showing Practice Ownership stats from the RACGP Health of the Nation report

The 2020 RACGP Health of the Nation Report in Summary

The RACGP Health of the Nation report is an incredibly insightful, thorough report for which we have only just scratched the surface. However, even this brief look has managed to outline some interesting data points, both new and recurring, that have surfaced over the past 2 years.

Given recent and ongoing tumultuous events, many of which disproportionately affect the healthcare sector and in particular GPs, the 2021 Health of the Nation report should shed some light on whether many of these trends are anomalies, or whether they will begin to evolve and embed themselves into what we now consider the ‘new normal’.

The RACGP Health of the Nation report for 2020, along with previous editions, are available to read in full here.

Authored by:

Louis Valenti Blog Author Image

Louis Valenti
Marketing Specialist at Best Practice Software

ACC Digital Services – An Update for Our New Zealand Customers

ACC Digital Services Update Article Blog Image

As you may be aware, ACC is upgrading the current technology used by Practice management software to connect to critical ACC Digital services such as eLodgement and eSchedule. 

You may have already started receiving information about this change from ACC, stating that the current methods for accessing ACC Digital services will no longer be available later in the year.

The good news is that Best Practice Software is already working on making the programmatic changes to our software to conform with the new connection requirements, and these will be made available to you later this calendar year.

What does this mean for your Practice?

To ensure that your Practice is not impacted by the ACC connection changes, you will need to upgrade your software when we make it available to you later this year. 

From a software workflow perspective, we expect minimal change, and for the transition to using eLodgement and eSchedule API equivalent, to be non-disruptive. We will be providing you with training and enablement material to equip you.

What can you do now to prepare? 

  • If you are using the latest version of Bp VIP.net, Version Ruby SP3 (525.018), no action is required at this time.
  • If you are on a lower version, we strongly recommend you commence planning now to upgrade to the latest version of the software. This will lessen the impact to your Practice operations when you upgrade to the ACC version of the software later in the year.
  • We also recommend you notify your staff of the impending ACC software change, in particular, your IT provider.

As soon as we have more information, and our Training team has published enablement resources related to the ACC software update, we’ll notify you through another formal email communication.

Questions? Contact our Support team by phone at 0800 40 1111 or by email at support@bpsoftware.net.

Are you interested in becoming an early adopter of our ACC Digital Services API Integration or do you have further questions?

Contact our team on support@bpsoftware.net and we will register your interest and provide further information as we progress our development.

Authored by:

Michael Toulsen
Product Manager at Best Practice Software

The Rise of Healthcare Consumerism

Healthcare Consumerism Blog Image

Healthcare consumerism is a concept that has existed for some time, but only recently has it really taken hold and started to significantly impact primary care.

There is perhaps no common understanding as to what constitutes healthcare consumerism, and discussions with providers and patients will likely yield two different sets of responses as to what it actually means.

Ask any provider that has had to contend with correcting the misconceptions of a patient’s self-diagnosis and treatment plan (often courtesy of Dr Google, WebMD or the Mayo Clinic) within the constraints of a few-minutes long consult, and you may be confronted by a somewhat less than flattering take on the subject.

However, as a patient, notions of patient empowerment through clinics and a shift towards patient centricity will likely feature very favourably.

Regardless of your individual view on this, in a consumer-centric society, consumerism was always going to find its way into the healthcare sector, and this will influence the sector in many predictable, but also some unexpected ways. The rate of this change has been accelerating as a result of the general societal changes brought about by COVID-19.

Broadly, consumerism itself has many defining features, but fundamental to it is the principle that the consumer is in control (though subject to marketing, social engineering influences and manipulation). They are in control of what they consume, and their patterns of consumption drive the choices that providers of products and services make about what gets produced and how it is produced. In theory, the more informed consumers are, the more their decisions are driven by knowledge.

It is, then, reasonable to conclude that patterns of consumer behaviour and expectations are responsible for the kind of product and service innovations that organisations like Amazon, Uber and Apple have brought about in their respective industries.

Given the level of disruption that has been brought about by the aformentioned powerhouses in their respective industries, one can only speculate about how much of an impact they would have if they turned their attention to serving the needs of the patient in an era of healthcare consumerism. Even if they don’t – they, and others like them have reset long-held, more traditional consumer expectations.

To compete in this environment, and to compete with the concept of healthcare consumerism itself, provider organisations will have to re-assess their entire value streams, and re-image how to leverage their people, processes and technologies in response to this consumer-centric landscape. 

Competing with Healthcare Consumerism

To develop an approach and response, one has to consider some of the behavioural changes brought about by this trend. It does, in essence, come down to the fact that patients’ expectations of care delivery have changed, and that they are taking an increasingly active role through a range of actions.

Patients are, of course, not a homogenous group, so their expectations and their responses to this will differ from one group to another. According to the Pew Research Centre, millennials now make up a larger portion of the population than baby boomers, and the long-term transformations of healthcare will be driven primarily by their needs. This generation has grown up in a technology-rich, consumer focused environment where transparency, rapid delivery and convenience is the norm.

A recent study into healthcare consumer expectations resulted in some startling findings:

Healthcare Consumerism Stats Infographic

As evidenced by the rise in social media, consumers have proven to be willing to share increasing levels of personal information for the sake of convenience across platforms – as a trend in consumer behaviour, this will likely apply in the context of healthcare as well.

It would be reasonable to expect that patients will want to share information between providers (evidencing a willingness to share), will want to have tools to aid this sharing of information (evidencing the importance placed on convenience), but will in all likelihood require more sophisticated consent and sharing models than what is the norm with some non-health related personal data.

Some of the other actions that patients are taking to meet their expectations include:

  • Shopping around, evaluating their options and generally expecting more from providers
  • Doing their own research about health issues, treatment options and providers
  • Taking deliberate steps to monitor and improve their health. The proliferation and increasing sophistication of wearable and home monitoring devices bears witness to this
  • Co-operating with providers to make treatment decisions and more freely sharing information with care providers
  • Taking cost and quality aspects into consideration in their decision making
  • Using technology for appointments, telehealth consults, online payments, prescription renewals and a host of other services

If we consider the expectations and consider the actions patients are taking to meet their expectations, a few things immediately become clear:

  • Patient loyalty will continue to decrease as millennials make up an increasing percentage of healthcare consumers
  • Providers will face new challenges in attracting and retaining patients, with less loyal patients being more likely to switch providers, and being enabled to do so with the ease provided by technology
  • This will have ramifications for health outcomes given the impact on continuity of care

So what’s the message in all of this?

The most logical outcome is that due to the rise of healthcare consumerism, it’s in the industry’s best interest to meet the demands of healthcare consumers by designing products and services that meet current and emerging patient needs.

Here at Best Practice Software, we are developing the next generation of healthcare systems that will not only meet the demands of our provider customers, but software that will deliver the tools and meaningful interactions with patients and other stakeholders to address the needs of future healthcare consumers.

Authored by:

Andre Broodryk Author Image

Andre Broodryk
Product Manager at Best Practice Software

Electronic Prescriptions – The Missing Link in Visibility of Patient Information

electronic prescribing timeline blog image

As the second wave of COVID-19 continues, clinicians remain acutely aware that the pandemic is far from over. Telehealth consultations and electronic prescriptions were two important digital health measures that helped clinicians provide life-saving support whilst protecting patients and staff against the risk of infection.

Telehealth consultations rose from pre-pandemic levels of 1.3% to 36% of all consultations last year as a result of their addition to Medicare from 13 March 2020. More than 30 million telehealth consultations were performed in Australia throughout 2020. More information on telehealth statistics can be found here, here and here.

Prior to the introduction of electronic prescriptions in 2019, the patient still needed a paper script. For the past twelve months, as a result of the accelerated national roll out of electronic prescriptions to deal with the pandemic, clinicians have had the option of providing patients with an electronic script via email or SMS rather than a paper script. This provided greater flexibility for patients and reduced the problem of lost or replacement scripts. In the twelve months since, ePrescribing has continued to gain traction, as shown in the following infographic.

electronic prescribing statistics infographic

Whilst delivering safe, private and efficient prescribing at a distance, Electronic Prescribing has also introduced new clinical benefits. One of the immediate impacts is that clinicians can now cancel an electronic prescription directly from Best Practice Software if the need arises, without having to retrieve the paper script or repeat.

The nation-wide launch of Australia’s first digital script list, called MyScriptList – more accurately referred to as a Department of Health conformant Active Script List (ASL) – also opens up substantial implications for reducing the administrative burden on practices. MyScriptList was launched in partnership by the two national prescription exchange services, eRx Script Exchange and MediSecure. It provides the third national means of access to electronic prescriptions, working alongside the two existing methods of paper scripts and digital tokens (the digitised script sent by a doctor to a patient’s email or phone, introduced in May 2020).

The main clinical benefit arising from the digital script list, or ASL, is that clinicians, patients and pharmacies can now view all of a patient’s current electronic prescriptions and repeats in one digital list. Clinical and administratively, this generates two important changes. Firstly, it removes problems associated with patients losing or not being able to locate the correct script, as their digital script list will always be current in real-time. This reduces the administrative load of re-issuing and re-sending scripts and repeats. Secondly, a combined digital script list makes it significantly easier for clinicians and pharmacies to support patients who have chronic health issues.

The successful rollout of Electronic Prescribing during the pandemic can be largely attributed to the twelve plus years of safe and secure electronic prescription transfer through eRx Script Exchange. eRx functionality, prior to the advent of electronic prescriptions, operated as a parallel electronic process to doctors’ paper-prescribing. eRx helps to ensure prescriptions are dispensed as the prescriber intended, reducing the possibility of misinterpretation or accidental dispensing errors. With more than 31,000 doctors and 5,500 pharmacies using eRx to handle 90% of prescriptions, the system has provided a proven and secure pathway to electronic prescriptions.

In the twelve years since, the prescription exchange service has become the backbone for a range of clinical tools that provide visibility of a patient’s current medication and treatment. Real-time prescription monitoring of Schedule 8 drugs is an example. This displays an alert if a patient’s interactions are at risk of causing an adverse event. According to the Victorian Coroners Court, Victoria’s real-time prescription monitoring, SafeScript, has contributed to reversing a 10-year trend of increasing prescription medicine overdose deaths (showing a reduction for the first time in 10 years, from 405 deaths in 2019 compared to 424 deaths in 2018).

Whilst more attention needs to be given to the follow up mechanisms that support patients once a red flag is identified, real-time interaction flags are a vital clinical tool to help protect patients with dependencies on monitored drugs – and the devastating toll that this takes on their families and communities.

Best Practice Software CEO, Dr Frank Pyefinch, has been an advocate of ePrescribing and sent the very first electronic prescription from our Bp Premier software back in 2009. “Electronic prescribing has come a long way since its early conception back in 2009, which initially focused on the reduction of medication errors from the manual entering of prescription data by pharmacists into their dispensing software. Now clinicians can send prescription data to their patients without the need for paper, making things like telehealth consultations and the good old, ‘I lost my prescription,’ workflows more efficient and safer for both practices and patients.” 

“The introduction of other initiatives like real time prescription monitoring (RTPM), under the electronic prescribing umbrella, have introduced additional important clinical safety measures and provided clinicians with important medication data at the point of care. We continue to see great innovation in this space, with plenty more planned changes on the horizon.”

Connecting to a prescription exchange service is fundamental to increasing the visibility of patient medication information, which increases your control over medications. Connecting all of your clinicians to a prescription exchange service is the start.

Co-authored by:

Dr Frank Pyefinch
CEO at Best Practice Software
&
Paul Naismith
CEO at Fred IT

8 Tips for Improving Workplace Communication in Your Practice

Improving Workplace Communication Blog Post Image

Working on improving workplace communication is paramount for any business, and Medical Practices are no exception.

As a Practice leader, you know that success in your role is dependent on your ability to effectively communicate. But just as important as the quality and value of your own words is the cultural commitment you make to internal communication within your Practice as a busy, high-profile workplace. So how do you make it part of everyday business, and embed it within Practice business strategy to make it “part of what we do around here”?

I recommend promoting the benefits of good workplace communication within your team by outwardly recognising that good communication is fundamental to the success of your Practice as a business. By making communication one of your ‘people pillars’, you’ll ensure less misunderstanding within your team – including Practitioners, Reception, Practice Management, and IT/business support team –, an increased commitment to change, a reinforced role of supervisor as leader, and more active participation in the Practice and its mission.

Think about adopting some shared communication principles within your Practice team, like:

  • Embedding in your team mission your commitment to open, honest, and meaningful internal communication – at all costs, including the potential to damage fragile egos. Embrace the concept that, as leader, you’ll set the highest standard in being transparent and authentic in your communication with the team and invite members to (respectfully) challenge you anytime they think you miss the mark.

  • Embrace face-to-face communication foremost while still recognising e-mail and intranet bulletins as a convenient, but ultimately more impersonal, workplace tool. Sunrise (before clinic) and Sunset (after clinic) personal team or individual briefings will always be more valued when they’re localised, purpose-driven, two-way, … and brief.

  • Utilise the communication tools already built into your business software/systems for instant messaging when you need to raise attention to an urgent or immediate matter – especially between Practitioner and Reception team. There is a great internal messaging feature built in to Bp Premier that many doctors and their Practice team use, providing a useful instant on-screen message if ever required.

  • Value meaningful two-way engagement with your Practice team, ensuring the team knows you will provide (and you welcome back) genuine and constructive feedback on team achievement towards individual and shared goals. Improving workplace communication is a lot easier when your team knows they’re being listened to.

  • Recognise the frontline role your Practitioners and Practice leadership team plays in team engagement – and let your Practice leaders know you expect they will make team communication the first and foremost part of their role as leader and use language which is familiar to and understood by their work group.

  • Ensure your Practice team knows they will be briefed face-to-face on matters which affect their job, and you’ll set that standard yourself. If each employee can’t be consulted and involved in decision-making regarding their job before any major change occurs, they should at least be briefed in person on important matters which change what they do, or how you expect them to do it.

  • Preference communication that promotes action within your team and Practice. We’ve all sat in a meeting that should have been an email, so ensure any team assemblies have a clear and concise purpose (agenda), don’t linger longer than is necessary, and you note and distribute a summary of key action items and accountabilities before anybody leaves.

  • Outline to the team your minimum engagement opportunities. Perhaps make a commitment that, for instance, you’ll host supervisor briefings at least monthly, and supervisor-to-Practice team briefings every second day, and informal ‘toolbox’ chats on health and safety matters or reception/patient matters each Friday morning at 7:30am. This helps ‘lock in’ your time together, and shows you’re wholly committed to these engagements, even if you don’t have much news to share.

While these tips provide a good starting point on the topic, improving workplace communication needs and deserves follow through and actions that match your words, from the senior-most level to the people greeting and treating your patients. By sharing team news early and consistently you’ll help ensure your preferred (rather than speculative) message is heard by every member of your team.

Authored by:

Craig Hodges
Chief Corporate Officer at Best Practice Software