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Future of Healthcare Q1 2024

How practice managers can tackle challenges in GP access and management

Photo credit: Emilia Krysztofiak

Rachel Bothwell (pictured above)

Founder & Director, GP Practice Ally

Access to GPs in Ireland is nationally challenging. Practice managers play a critical role in sustaining healthcare quality, managing operations and optimising IT systems to alleviate burdens on GPs.

Access to GP care is a growing issue in Ireland. To deliver high-quality healthcare to the local community, effective practice management is critical. 

GPs work increasingly long hours to compensate for staff shortages and increasing demands of the growing and ageing population, along with pressures imposed by the transfer of secondary care to general practice and Sláintecare initiatives. This strains timely access and continuity of care. Administrative tasks consume valuable clinical time, exacerbating the issue.

Development of the ‘practice manager’ role

The evolution of the practice manager role is crucial for the sustainability of general practice, especially within this context. The role spans diverse responsibilities, including operational, financial, HR and risk management, as well as ensuring continuity of patient services and compliance with safety and data protection regulations.

With growing complexity arising from legislative changes, staffing challenges and rising administrative demands, strong organisational and problem-solving skills are essential. Most GPs receive limited business training, yet are expected to eventually own and manage medium-sized businesses.

Training and empowering professional practice managers to handle these responsibilities will increase clinical availability and assist in attracting younger GPs who are currently deterred by the burden of managing an SME.

To deliver high-quality healthcare to the local
community, effective practice management is critical.

Optimising practice systems and processes

Many practices underutilise their IT systems, often due to lack of guidance and overwhelm. With improved training, practice managers can optimise existing IT systems, analyse available data and provide insights for informed GP decision-making regarding patient services and the future of the practice.

Upgrades to practice websites and telephone systems are often required, as these serve as essential patient touch points. An informative and user-friendly website will reduce phone traffic, ensuring patients seeking urgent medical care can access phone lines easily.

Continuous process improvement is essential to identify bottlenecks, enhance the patient experience and optimise resource allocation. Trained and skilled practice managers can streamline processes, enabling the practice to swiftly adapt when required while prioritising patient care.

Collaborative learning

Practice managers benefit greatly from sharing experiences and learning from peers by joining professional development networks, attending conferences and participating in training. This collaborative approach fosters a supportive environment, enabling managers to gain fresh perspectives, validate strategies and enhance performance in general practice.

GP Practice Ally (GPPA) is a unique professional development network, serving the needs of GP practice managers in Ireland. GPPA aims to enhance practice managers’ skills and confidence in navigating the complexities of primary care service management by providing them with access to information, training and peer support. Learn more: gppracticeally.ie

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