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The Challenges Of Delivering Affordable Private Healthcare

Competing with the national health service that is available to everyone, can be a challenge for private healthcare providers, although there are many reasons that indicate a ‘superior’ service from private healthcare services, the price is usually the main concern from potential patients.

Paying for healthcare when it’s readily available at no cost across the country is a huge reason why the public still rely heavily on the NHS. There are a lot of misconceptions that healthcare is hugely expensive and only suitable for the middle to upper class, as oppose to the working class. It is important to understand the requirements and the affordability of your target market to thrive in the private healthcare industry.

UNDERSTAND YOUR DEMOGRAPHICS

People are living longer which is a huge change in demographics compared to 50 years ago, which means more people are taking advantage of their private healthcare insurance and premiums. However, those over 50 are usually put off private healthcare as their premiums become more expensive, due to higher risk of needing to utilise the private care, as a result, the amount of people over the age of 50 using private healthcare is declining. It’s worth considering how we can change this so that private healthcare becomes more affordable and a justified expense to over 50s.

HEALTHCARE COST INFLATIONS

Every industry is trying to make more money, from pharmaceutical companies advancing the medication and treatments that they can offer to medical technology companies creating innovative and reliable equipment that can enable medical professionals to do their jobs even better than ever before. All of these things come at a price, and an ever inflating one at that, so understandable, there has to be inflation in every link of the chain, including patients right?

INFRASTRUCTURE

Private healthcare’s infrastructure is very much an older and less nurtured infrastructure than the NHS. Private healthcare took off in the 1980s which is when most hospitals and healthcare centres were built for the private sector, however the growth and development of these establishment has been poorly funded and in most cases, ignored. When you are paying for private healthcare you expect a better set up than the one provided on the NHS, but in some cases, this is not achievable due to the lack of funding. This is something that can put people off continuing with their private healthcare and gives the idea of a less than desired level of care in regards to their settings. How can the private sector improve their quality in their infrastructure to reflect the difference and superiority of the service that private healthcare providers offer?

Overall there are many reasons why private healthcare is the right choice for many people, and there is definitely still a huge market that take advantage of the superiority that private healthcare provides, however broadening that target market to make it more desirable and more affordable seems like it will need a little more development and a little more work.

 

 

Self pay patients rise as NHS refers patients to private care

There has been a nearly 25% rise in self pay patients in recent years and this has come at no surprise. The NHS waiting lists for minor operations is getting longer and , as a result, patients are being recommended to go private, pay for the operation themselves and jump the long waiting list on NHS.

Almost three quarters of the NHS are turning patients away for hip surgeries, only referring those for an operation if they are in significant pain and for cataract surgery you would have to be almost blind to get the operation done on the NHS. Even if you do get on the operating list you could be waiting anything from 9 weeks, to a year for surgery. The largest increase in self pay patients have been in those to fix disabling condition, which have become increasingly hard for people in England to obtain on the NHS without a long wait.

Private healthcare offer surgery with a latest 1-2 weeks wait but a £15,000 price tag for the likes of a hip replacement. Although an attractive option that has been taken up by increased numbers, some people still won’t be able to use private healthcare as an option or don’t know that there are many payment options when opting into the private sector.

Some larger private healthcare providers have been sending their prices lists to GP surgeries in a bid to attract patients to the faster route as an alternative when they are rejected for operations by the NHS or put on a lengthy waiting list. This has only been distributed to a few GPs, but has been greeted with mixed reaction, for some it is reassuring that there are other options out there, and educates patients on their options moving forward, however the private price list is also being greeted with panic and worry, as people raise their concern that the NHS can’t cope with their patients and cannot afford to go private.

The government have continued to cut funds and ignore the growing issues in the NHS, and where the NHS declines, the private sector will continue to see rapid growth through desperation and being physically unable to live with disabling conditions. The continued demise of the NHS, is an opportunity for the private sector to take advantage of.

 

 

The Rise Of The Online GP

Forget waiting for weeks on end for appointments, and having to take time of work to see your doctor, there are now ways that you can access your doctor almost any time of day, seven days a week. Digital doctors are taking over the UK giving patients access to their services through a smart device.

Babylon is probably the most used Online GP service and is in partnership with the NHS to offer a ‘GP at Hand’. The app can be downloaded on your smart device and takes less than a minute to register. Although Babylon/NHS GP at Hand is currently only available to those who live or work in Zones 1 – 3 in London, there are plenty of private GP’s UK wide, taking advantage of the spike in interest surrounding online appointments.

The idea and interest spiked initially when Jeremy Hunt announced that all GPs must give online access to patients including online appointment booking systems and access to repeat prescriptions by 2015. Since this has become available nationally, the interest in online GP appointments has increased by 54%.

PushDoctor is the most popular private online GP available in the UK, it allows you to access a doctor day or night, but at a cost. It’s £1 for your first appointment, £14 for your second with prescriptions available via email for the first time ever, at an additional cost of £4.50. Although PushDoctor is private it is an NHS funded app that plans to work more closely with the free healthcare sector in the future.

Is it really up to scratch though compared to face to face appointments? 60% of online appointment users have claimed that their issue was resolved during their online appointments, the other 40% needing physical assessment in person consequently booking in at their local surgery.

Although over half of patients were satisfied with their online appointments, there is still a huge percentage of the UK who rely heavily on their local GP to provide appointments. Some are seeking answers in desperation from A&E due to restricted access by their registered practice on weekends and evenings, causing a surge in over crowed waiting areas and unnecessarily long waiting times.

Overall, we think that the interest in digital doctors will continue to increase and could be a positive step forward in preventing the overcrowding and reduce wait times for patients to access their doctors.

 

 

 

Top Tips For Managing Your Private Practice Finances

It can be really difficult and overwhelming for anybody with little to no experience in accountancy to really get a good grasp on what is required from you as the owner of a private practice. Here at Accounts Unlocked For Doctors, we know how time consuming and confusing managing finances and working out taxes can be, which is why we have developed a range of packages that are available for medical professionals of all calibre, including private practice owners, so that they can concentrate on helping patients instead of jamming numbers into calculators.

We are sharing on our expert tips on managing your private practice’s finances…

SEPARATE YOUR FINANCES

First and foremost, if you don’t already , you should keep your practice finances separate from your personal finances. Having a separate business bank accounts and using a regular tracking tool like Quickbooks are essential tools to have to ensure you keep your personal and professional finances separate.  You can then you pay yourself just like you would get a salary from an employed job.

PROFIT & LOSS STATEMENTS

Another area of your financial commitments that is good to look at often is the profit and loss statement.  This will give you a really good idea of how well your practice is doing and if you are actually making money or not. It will measure your income and profit and show you where you are spending with expenses. There are so many benefits of using profit & loss statements, not only will this encourage budgeting and will give you a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t, it will also give a forecast of times, days and months that you are excelling profit in.

GET YOURSELF AN ACCOUNTANT

It seems like a no brainer right? But some people don’t consider or understand the full benefits of having an accountant to take control of their taxes, and it’s not until they are faced with a tax return, do they realise that unless you are knowledgable on these returns, it’s almost impossible to know if you’ve done everything right. A medical accountant is a worthy investment for any private practice, whether you outsource or bring someone in salaried to take care of your finances.

We consider these to be the most important elements of taking control of your private practice’s finances and will ensure you can remain focused on your patients. Your financial success in private practice, generally comes from being able to manage and understand the financial side of things.  By having knowledge of these basic essentials will give you a better understanding of your practice.

How Does GP Funding In Your CCG Compare To The Rest Of England?

The average funding per patient across all GP practices in England has increased at a steady pace since the initial data on payments to general practice – for the 2013/14 financial year – were published by NHS Digital.

Data published in late 2017 revealed that the average funding per patient for GP practices was £151 for 2016/17 – up from £136.01 in 2013/14. But there are many different circumstances to be considered as well as variations in the average amount of funding GP practices receive between CCG areas which remain huge, and was roughly unchanged in 2016/17 compared with the previous year.

In NHS Central Manchester CCG, practices received £115.54 on average per weighted patient in 2016/17 – the lowest average figure in the country. In NHS North Norfolk CCG, however, practices receive £216.72 – almost twice as much per weighted patient.

Map: find out how funding in your CCG compares

 

The difference between the areas that receive GP funding between the best- and worst-funded CCG areas in 2016/17 is lower than it was in 2014/15, NHS Digital’s data reveal. In 2014/15, GP practices in the best-funded CCG area received around £215 per weighted patient, compared with £105.19 in the worst-funded area. However, compared with 2015/16, when the range was around £110 to £210, very little changed in 2016/17.

GP leaders have warned that despite a rise in GP funding in 2016/17, overall investment in general practice is failing to keep track with the ever increasing workload and demand.

The BMA has predicted that general practice funding will fall short by £3.4bn in 2020/21 of the 11% share of overall NHS funding the profession needs.

Stop Private Patients Avoiding Their Medical Bills

Many consultants think that having a private practice is in the insurance market, when really it isn’t, only around 65% of invoices raised by private practices were accounted for by private medical insurance. Self pay patients are accountable for around 25% of specialists’ incomes (however this can be higher and completely varies on your speciality, type and location) which is why prevention of private patients avoiding their medical bills is imperative to the management and financial condition of your private practice.

Most consultants have an element of patients who are self-pay. Therefore, it would make sense to have a concise price list provided and make sure payment methods are made clear in advance so that your patient is expecting an invoice and is prepared to pay promptly.

Ways you can avoid late payments or payment avoidance is by taking payment on the day by debit/credit card or, dependent upon the requirements of the practice, you can even take money in advance.
Should you not be able to collect payment on the day,  you will need to put in place a strict system where the patient is chased for payment after a period of time that is agreed with the patient and then chased on a regular basis until payment is collected.

Another area of private medical payment avoidance comes from a lack of understanding and knowledge by the patient in regards to their insurance policies. Shortfalls in insurance payment are normally by far the largest volume of the self-pay invoices.  Most patients do not have a full understanding of their insurance policy and are under the impression that all costs are met by their medical insurer. It usually results in patients being unprepared on recipients of their financial responsibility for medical treatment in form of an unexpected invoice.  Many patients will ignore the invoice, with the misapprehension it is a copy of what has been sent to the insurer and when they do become aware of their financial obligation to pay a part of the bill, it is usually met with frustration which leads to further delay as the patient disputes the liability with their insurer.

The self-pay market is inevitably going to continue to come under pressure from the economic situation. So unless you put in place a clear and strict payment plan for patience to follow, it is almost certain that your outstanding debt circumstances will continue to increase as a consequence of the increasing difficulties in getting patients to pay up.

You may want to recruit the help of a debt collection agency or find an accountant that offer credit control and debt recovery options, just like Accounts Unlocked For Doctors. This takes the stress away from your busy, everyday needs and priorities in the practice. We can provide you with expert advice on how to deal  with increasing debt issues and ways to tackle unpaid patients.