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Even experienced practitioners acknowledge that one of the
greatest challenges you will face in private practice will be
finding enough hours in the day. Time consulting with patients is
obviously paramount, but liaising with other health professionals
and conforming to the many bureaucratic impositions faced in
everyday practice can take considerable time. On top of this, you
will also have the responsibilities of ensuring your practice runs
smoothly and effectively.
Time management in the consultation is a common problem voiced
by all doctors, and doctors often run behind time for a variety of
reasons, at least some of which can be addressed (please refer
module on Patient consultations), for
example by choosing slightly longer appointment times, reviewing
the patient's notes as they come into the room and by stopping all
Mind Tools - a useful site with hints and tools for improving time management, stress, creativity and performance.
Australian Medical Association - halving red tape.
Time management is a crucial skill and can have a significant
impact on the practice by affecting the number of patients the
doctor can treat, and the level of service that doctor can provide
to each patient. 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. The AMA Red Tape Survey 2011 found 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 3-6 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.
Appropriate staff selection is of the utmost importance, but no
matter how much your staff is able to support you, the ultimate
accountability for the reputation and professionalism of your
practice, as well as its economic viability, rests with you (and
other principals if there are any). In terms of time management,
these are some of the additional activities you need to attend
All this can be done without creating unhealthy levels of
stress, even if you do not have a full time practice manager.
However doing a cost benefit analysis on employing a practice
manager may highlight the advantage in time management and
financial management. If the practice manager is in control of the
administration process, it releases the practitioner to focus on
the clinical aspects of the practice. Delegation is an art and
involves employing appropriate staff and training and empowering
them in their roles.
It is important to balance out the responsibilities of business
ownership that cannot be delegated, and with the many functions
that can be delegated to a practice manager.
Cole, K., Make Time, Australia, Prentice Hall, 2001.
Collis, J. 1995, Work Smarter Not Harder, HarperCollins.
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