Beyond the masks and tests, it has been a challenging 12 months for those on the front line of health, and while there has been a lot of praise and support for hospital workers, medical practice owners have also been doing it tough.
Usually owned and run by the general practitioners who work in them, general practices have been hit by huge changes that have had a significant financial impact on what are essentially small businesses. From empty waiting rooms to rapid telehealth transitions, COVID-19 stress hasn’t escaped anyone.
Michael O’Hehir and Young Han from national accounting and business advisory firm RSM said stress has risen enormously for GPs in the past year.
“Quite often, the owners and business managers of GP clinics and practices are the medical professionals themselves. These are people who went into medicine to help their community and be experts at what they do. Practising medicine and running a business are not the same. But they are often too committed to patient care to focus on the business side of running a practice,” Mrs Han said.
“Many people think all doctors are rich, but as an accountant, when you look at the financials of the general practice businesses that are the frontline of our health, this is not true, particularly for the smaller practices.
“We find there’s not a whole lot of discussion around money in the medical field. No one feels comfortable talking about it; however, it is an unspoken expectation of the general public that because someone is a doctor, they earn a fortune. Not only is this not always the case, but we’ve seen many GPs seeking advice due to increased pressure on cash flow.
“When you add the stress of running a practice into their already long hours and the intensive requirements of practising medicine, and then throw in a health crisis, I think attention should be paid to the anxiety these individuals are likely to be facing,” she said.
Michael O’Hehir said doctors should try to make time to evaluate their personal and business cash flow or engage with a professional to evaluate the situation.
“It is essential. It’s the first step to understanding what’s going wrong and where big improvements can be made. It is no longer a choice but a must for practice owners to monitor cash flow to maintain the sustainability of their medical practice,” Mr O’Hehir said.
“It’s even more important for solo practitioners because cash flow stops when they don’t see patients. There is no one else but themselves to fund their sick leave and annual leave, along with supporting their family.”
In the future, Mrs Han said that given the nature of their work, medical professionals should consistently give themselves permission to attend to their own life as much as they do their patients, family and community.
“Medical professionals frequently work themselves into the ground to try and see as many patients as possible. They are carrying the responsibility of someone’s life in their hands which is a highly stressful and intensive work environment. However, this doesn’t always compute into a positive bank balance,” Mrs Han said.
RSM and Capital Health Network are hosting an all-in-one seminar for medical professionals interested in learning strategies to improve their businesses. The seminar, Create-protect-exit with wealth – Financial journey for medical professionals, is on Saturday, 27 March, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
“A medical professional has a different career life cycle from most people because they spend so many years studying. If they wish to retire at the average age, they really need to have a wealth plan that accounts for the years of lost income due to study and the high HECS debt that comes with it,” Young said.
“With the right strategies and plan, they can absolutely provide high-quality medicine for a longer period while enjoying the financial rewards of their work. When your life is well balanced, the quality of your work improves.”
RSM has a specialist division for medical and health professionals, offering personal and business support services that range from Medicare compliance and billing review, to improving business operations, practice security and fraud prevention, planning for retirement, asset protection, investment strategies and more.
If you are interested in attending the seminar, register at RSM.
For anyone experiencing mental health concerns, Lifeline is available to all Australians 24/7 on 13 11 14.