It’s fairly well known that GP salaries in Australia are lower than other specialists, and this was confirmed with the latest MABEL study. There are around 8 specialist groups in particular that receive a median hourly rate that is double what GPs receive, such as dermatologists, anaesthetists and radiologists.
When a patient goes to see a GP (and with bulk billing rates sitting around 86%) they generally expect not to pay any gap fees. At the same time the patient has probably spent $40 or more for the week on coffees and a nice serve of smashed avocado on toast over the weekend. They may have had their nails done (another $50) or their car professionally cleaned. But when it comes to their health (which most people value) their perception is they shouldn’t spend anything, and the government should provide the service for free.
Meanwhile the government appears to have no intention of significantly increasing the rebate for standard GP consultants. When you consider the Medicare freeze, and recent commentary on the increasing Medicare spend on primary care, it seems unlikely that they will do anything to increase GP earnings.
If GPs really want to increase their earnings so they are more closely aligned with other specialties they need to address the perception problem, and find ways to ad more value to patients – so they can charge more.
Perception is a difficult thing to change, it takes time and often needs to be tackled on a number of fronts. Here are a few ways it could possibly be tackled – all of these are from a patients point of view, but I am certain clinicians would have further ideas. Its also worth noting some of these are small things that individual GPs can address, and other need to be addressed collectively due to their scale.
Over the last 15 years almost every industry has been disrupted by technology, and in every industry traditional providers have had to ask, ‘how can we add more value to our customers’. Its happens every day in our business, things change and we have to adapt, as difficult as it is.
The development of online bookings is one of the few technological advancements (to my knowledge) that has improved the patient experience, and even that is a very small change. What else can be done to engage with patients and add more value? Some GPs may not consider patients to be customers, but without this perspective advancements won’t be made that allow GPs to charge more.
You may view these comments and ask why should GPs have to do all this when other specialists don’t? And while it’s a fair question, it shouldn’t be the focus. If GPs want to increase their earnings, then patients need to be convinced of the benefit of paying $50+ for consult instead of getting it for free.
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