Improve Your Practice

Finding enough hours in the day

One of the greatest challenges you will face as a practice manager is finding enough hours in the day. Your role requires you to manage a variety of areas that include: HR, IT, financial management, service delivery, expansion of ‘practice business’, marketing, risk management and your own personal professional development. On top of this, you will also have the responsibilities of ensuring your practice runs smoothly and effectively on a daily basis.

Time management is a crucial skill and can have a significant impact on the operational efficiency of the practice. As the practice manager, a key role is creating an environment and systems that support efficient daily functionality that achieves optimal practice (and practitioner) performance.


You should ensure that practice principals establish a regular management meeting schedule. This will allow them to concentrate on medical consulting during their working day and leave management issues to a specified time. This will also assist you in the daily management of the practice as staff realise they must deal with the manager for operational decisions or clarification.

For a doctor, even just 30 minutes per day of ‘wasted’ time can add up to more than two weeks of lost consulting time over a 12-month period. This is particularly important in the context that much of a doctor’s time can be spent on paperwork rather than direct consultations; by reducing the time the doctor needs to spend on administrative aspects, you will increase access to doctors, increase the number of services provided and increase the financial performance of the practice. Alternatively, it may be that the doctor wishes to offset income for reduced time at the practice.

The AMA Red Tape Survey 2011found that almost 10% of GPs are spending more than nine hours of their working week dealing with government red tape, more than one-third of GPs (37.1%) were tied up with red tape for between three to six hours a week, and 31.1% spent up to three hours a week on red tape. The average red tape burden was 4.62 hours a week.

Appointment system

One of the most critical tools to support effective time management is a practice-specific, efficient appointment system that will provide flexibility to reflect how each doctor works. It is also imperative that staff are trained in and understand the practice software system to ensure they (and the program) are able to perform at a high level. A well constructed appointment system, with well-documented protocols and consistent interpretation and implementation of those protocols will significantly enhance overall performance of the practice.

Appropriate staff recruitment is critical but if you, your staff or doctors are poor at time management, there are a number of educational programs available that can improve individual performance.

In terms of time management, these are some of the additional activities you need to attend to:

  • regularly monitoring the practice business plan
  • regularly providing management reports – practice and practitioner performance including financial performance
  • attending to, or supervising staff needs
  • attending professional meetings and functions
  • monitoring of compliance systems
  • implementing an appropriate marketing plan for each cycle of your business
  • quality of service, i.e. ensuring patient care meets or exceeds the required level
  • your own professional development
  • your own health and balance of lifestyle.

It is important to identify the responsibilities of business ownership that cannot be delegated and clearly define the roles and responsibilities that are to be performed by the practice manager.

Improve your practice

  • The practice spends time meeting and planning as a team on a regular basis.
  • The practice manager and principal/s have a regular management meeting schedule.
  • Use the rule “handle documents once - i.e. don’t ‘paper shuffle’”. Action (and notate) documents and tasks as soon as they are known.
  • Appropriate delegation of tasks and functions is utilised where possible.
  • “Time intensive” activities such as meetings are well defined in terms of how often, who are involved and when they are scheduled.
  • Team members have the opportunity to attend appropriate professional development courses.
  • Schedule a particular time to attend to email, or other communication items that can continually interrupt your daily schedule.
  • Schedule a particular time where you are not available (unless emergency) for an opportunity for uninterrupted time to focus on work.
  • Encourage the team to think about efficient ways of running the business and meet regularly to ‘brainstorm’.
  • Ensure consultations are never interrupted unless an emergency.
  • Practitioners should record all non-clinical appointments related to the business in a diary (electronic or paper).


Cole, K., Make Time, Australia, Prentice Hall, 2001.

Collis, J., Work Smarter Not Harder, HarperCollins, 1995.

Robbins, S., Bergman, R., Staff, I. and Coulter, M., Management, 3rd edition, Australia, Prentice Hall, 2003.

Whiteley and Hessan, Customer Centred Growth – Five proven strategies for building competitive advantage, New York, Addison-Wesley, 1996.

Next page

Patient consultations
  • Time management during patient consultations
  • The ‘Four Habits’ approach to effective clinical communication
  • Before the consultation
  • Engage the patient
  • Elicit information
  • Developing a treatment strategy
  • Concluding the encounter
  • Managing the time
  • Improve your practice
  • References

This publication is proudly brought to you by Avant Mutual Group. The content was authored by Brett McPherson, reviewed by Colleen Sullivan and Avant Mutual Group.

This publication is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to the individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Avant is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. Information is only current at the date initially published. © Avant Mutual Group Limited 2014.

IMPORTANT: Professional indemnity insurance products and Avant’s Practice Medical Indemnity Policy are issued by Avant Insurance Limited, ABN 82 003 707 471, AFSL 238 765. The information provided here is general advice only. You should consider the appropriateness of the advice having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us. For full details including the terms, conditions, and exclusions that apply, please read and consider the policy wording and PDS, which is available at or by contacting us on 1800 128 268. Practices need to consider other forms of insurance including directors’ and officers’ liability, public and products liability, property and business interruption insurance, and workers compensation and you should contact your insurance broker for more information. Cover is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of the policy. Any advice here does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the product is appropriate for you before deciding to purchase or continuing to hold a policy with us.