30/10/2017 - 15:55

Doctors control the business model

30/10/2017 - 15:55


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SPECIAL REPORT: A shared approach to practice is paying dividends for the founders of Perth Urology Clinic.

Doctors control the business model
The team at Perth Urology Clinic say the next surgeon to join them must share the same values. Photo: Daniel James Grant

A Perth-based health practice has turned the sector’s traditional business model on its head to show that teamwork can lead to an improved work-life balance for medical practitioners, while also prioritising patient needs.

Perth Urology Clinic principals Shane La Bianca, Jeffrey Thavaseelan, Andrew Tan, Akhil Hamid, Trenton Barrett, and Matthew Brown told Business News they share a common vision for how they wish to work.

The business was established in July 2016 as a private clinic where the founders have chosen to work as a team – sharing patients, staff, knowledge and even income.

Angela Whittington, a 40under40 winner in 2002, was brought into the business as general manager in October 2016.

Ms Whittington told Business News that, unlike specialists generating income on a per-patient basis, the doctors at Perth Urology operated on a salary.

“Whether they’re doing marketing, or helping me with strategy, or helping the girls with process mapping or doing the most complex robotic surgery, they all are remunerated an equivalent amount,” Ms Whittington said.

“What that means is people are willing to do all areas of work.”

According to Dr Barrett, the model is counterintuitive to that traditionally adopted by surgeons. 

“It takes a lot of suppression of ego; you can’t be the star, you’re part of a team,” Dr Barrett told Business News.

“None of our advertising material really mentions any surgeons individually; in Perth Urology Clinic it’s all about Perth Urology.”

Dr Thavaseelan said solo practitioners at other practices couldn’t share their referrals without losing income.

“As a sole practitioner you work long hours as you cannot say ‘no’ to referrals, and thus work-life balance is not great,” he said.

“As a consequence, patient care can be compromised.

“When a referral comes in, it allows us to get the patient seen by the surgeon who has the best experience in that area.

“From a work-life balance (point of view), it’s fantastic.

“And hospitals see the benefit; they have a group rather than individuals to provide a service. Other specialists, if they want us to review one of their patients in hospital, it’s easy, they just contact our offices, they know one of our group is available and will sort out the problem.”

The move towards sub-specialisation has accelerated within medical specialisation in recent decades, according to Dr Thavaseelan and Dr Barrett.

“Around 20-30 years ago, a urologist would do everything,” Dr Thavaseelan said.

“Obviously with time, everyone’s recognised, and this is internationally, that if you focus on specific areas and do that more often, the patient outcome is better.”

Each doctor at Perth Urology has an area of sub-specialisation, and patients are directed to the doctor best qualified to meet their needs.

Dr Barrett said solo practitioners who wanted to sub-specialise could face difficulties securing consistent referrals from general practitioners, however.

“To have to work out who does what is very difficult and they (GPs) don’t have time, but to be able to send a referral to one roof and have us (Perth Urology) work it out for them, to be able to do that is good,” he said. 

The clinic has grown substantially in the past year, recently adding Mandurah and Albany as satellite locations.  

“We didn’t set out with our primary aim of making more money; our primary aim was gold standard patient care and at the same time improving work-life balance, but because of that we’ve grown,” Dr Thavaseelan said.

After joining a year ago, Ms Whittington said she had revised the budget to account for seasonal changes and began process mapping, breaking down each of the clinic’s processes to improve service. 


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