Corporate face off good for GPs

3 minute read

The battle between the big players for the hearts and minds of GPs is getting interesting


The battle between the big players for the hearts and minds of GPs is getting interesting

Corporate medicine in Australia will likely change significantly in the face of the huge technological shifts that are starting to impact the sector.

For one thing, enhanced connectivity between doctors, and between doctors and patients, probably through the near term spread of cloud-based patient management systems, is likely to affect the traditional economies-of-scale model.

There will still be medical centres, of course, but the need for them to be so big, shiny and centralised might dissipate. Doctors who are available at all hours through telemedicine, and who are far more mobile, will likely significantly change the dynamic.

With such connectivity and, in particular, through telemedicine, smaller more agile units of doctors should be able to set themselves up in cheaper, more decentralised premises and form their own relationships with other like-minded and complementary units of doctors, either nearby or not.

Overall, some of the benefits of being ‘big’ in the corporates will be eroded. GPs should be able to provide much higher levels of service in smaller, more intimate and distributed (but connected) groups.

The signs are the corporates are already starting to respond.

Look no further than the recent about-face in strategy by Primary Health Care. Faced with a giant squeeze on its past model of ‘volume’ medicine, it is shifting its focus to ‘quality’ and ‘value add’. The hope is that doctors will not turn over as fast, and that patients will pay extra for improved services. It’s a timely change by chief executive Peter Gregg.

One thing about the shift is that Gregg is turning his medical centre ship directly across the bow of the established, quality medical centre provider, IPN, which is owned by Sonic Healthcare. As a consequence, the battle is about to heat up for the hearts and minds of GPs.

Primary reported in its recent results that its turnover of doctors had dropped a whopping 35%. And it is investing significantly in education, leadership and conditions for their doctors.

IPN on the other hand is doing more of the same. IPN’s annual report says of its progress in the last year that its positive reputation is “driving strong GP recruitment and record-low GP churn”.

The other key change seems to be around attitude towards GPs and leadership in medical organisations. Sonic Clinical Services is run by an ex-GP who used to own and run one of its centres, Dr Malcolm Parmenter, and IPN is run by another ex-GP, Dr Ged Foley. IPN and Sonic say that they have a “medical leadership culture” which provides them with a competitive advantage.

Primary isn’t run by a doctor, but it looks like it gets the medical leadership thing now too. Various changes in the group in the past 6 months point to an organisation that sees the likely advantage of smart and engaged doctors (GPs) in leadership positions.

Suddenly IPNs long term brand differentiation from Primary might be challenged.

Our two biggest corporates are now on a course where both think that engaging GPs much better in their businesses is the best way to go.

Bring it on. This can only be a good thing for GPs.

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