ENTERING PRACTICE AND PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
The majority of Australian doctors undertake full-time or part-time private clinical practice as general or specialist practitioners and are thus effectively running a small business. To manage such an enterprise successfully requires knowledge, some skill and investment of time and energy. For larger medical groups, practice managers may be employed to undertake some of this work or the task may be allocated to a medical member of the group who has the necessary skills and interest. This chapter is intended to give a broad overview of the tasks involved in establishing and managing a practice and to direct the reader to more detailed sources of information and professional help. It does not attempt to address the management issues specific to the investigative branches of clinical medicine such as radiology, pathology, day procedure centres and the like.
Good practice management may appear superficially to be based on self-interest, aimed to maximise income and improve quality of life. While this is of some relevance, good practice management is a prerequisite to good patient care and is in the best interests of patients; in such a practice, appointment systems work, patient records are not misplaced, investigation results are not overlooked, direct-billing errors to Medicare do not occur and patients are guided efficiently to the help and resources they need. As mentioned in Chapter 2, better patient outcomes are achieved where there is good communication and a good patient--doctor relationship is established. This relationship begins from the moment a patient first telephones the practice for an appointment or first enters the waiting room. Patients may not be able