Author: Declan

Letting your patients know if you are moving practice

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in May 2023

Something we are often asked by doctors who are moving to a new practice is “am I allowed to let my patients know?”

This presents an interesting scenario because on the one hand, you must show appropriate due diligence in letting patients know you have moved so they may contact you if they wish. However, within your contract there may be clauses to say that you cannot solicit patients.

Here are some tips to consider before acting in this space.

#1 Seek legal advice
Talking to a professional in this space is worthwhile when there is a contract involved.

#2 Alternative channels
You can let patients know you have moved without contacting them directly and this can be done via website, a homepage or through social media to local forums. Be aware if you set up a homepage or a new website that it will take some weeks for search engines to pick up the information. If the practice you are moving from is agreeable, a sign at the practice, both at reception and on the front door can further advise.

#3 Call your insurer
This is also a space where a call to your insurer can be helpful. This is to check whether you are meeting the requirements in letting your patients know about your move.

RWS puts a process in place to help you with the implementation, design and strategy for all of the above suggestions.

Contact us for further information if you are moving.

Does your practice need a social responsibility program?

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in July 2023

One of the areas that is very important to a recruitment candidate when they are looking for a job is, ‘does the practice show some level of social responsibility?’.

People like to work for a practice that has a purpose other than simply being a business. Of course, in healthcare there are lots of examples of social responsibility where doctors are giving their time and energy above and beyond to patients. However, ensuring there are some other activities that are happening can help to secure, retain and motivate an employee.

RWS implements a social responsibility program for you that is simple and can include areas such as:

 1. Having a policy around genuine hardship.

2. Having a charitable activity each year.

3. Being aware of the environment and taking measures to reduce environmental impact. E.g., minimising disposable products and water use.

These three example areas can be included at your practice to help motivate staff and feel like they are working for an organisation with a higher purpose.

Looking after the psychosocial welfare of your employees is also part of your obligations as an employer. Operating a social responsibility program can go a long way to show that you are interested in the welfare of the community along with your staff member.

You can talk to our team about a social responsibility program and how it can be implemented at your practice.

Family and domestic violence leave

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in March 2023

 

You will have no doubt heard in the news about the entitlement changes in regard to Family and Domestic Leave for all Australian staff.

This entitlement has now changed from 5 days unpaid TO 10 days paid leave per year, and all workers are entitled to the 10 days of leave including permanent, part time and casual (there is no pro-rata).

This new entitlement comes into effect for all businesses from 1st February 2023, with the exception of Small Businesses (less than 15 employees) which comes into effect from 1st August 2023.

The difference between this leave and other leave types such as annual/personal, is the 10 days leave balance commences at the start of your employment year (it doesn’t accumulate during the year).

At RWS we strongly recommend implementing a HR Leave Policy to clearly educate and inform staff of their rights, and in what incidences and occurrences they can use this Family and Domestic Leave entitlement.

Feel free to contact michelle@roomswithstyle.com.au for further information.

Allied health at your practice

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in March 2023

 

It is quite common to have a range of allied health professionals operate with a medical practice, including physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and more. When taking on allied health professionals at your business, there are many considerations. Some are positive, however in our experience there can be some drawbacks. Thus, it is important to best safeguard yourself against potential traps, but to also capitalise on important opportunities for your practice.

 

Advantages

Allied health professionals can enhance your business if the specialty is closely linked, and it might be that they provide a service that is complementary with the primary service you are running. Furthermore, taking on these professionals can provide additional rent coming into your business, thereby improving your bottom line.

 

Drawbacks

Allied health professionals tend not to have a the cash flow of doctors and may not be able to afford to pay what the room for rent is worth. As such, you might need to reconsider if you need the room to be producing more income for your business.

When setting the fee for an allied health professional coming into your rooms, it is advised that you apply a fixed price calculation (e.g. Allow for public holidays and annual leave to calculate this fee). Doing this means that the payment is required regardless of attendance and saves bookkeeping headaches. This set-up avoids any potentially problematic conversations surrounding attendance of the health professional, wanting to swap days or anything similar. We advise against being able to ‘swap days’, as this might negate the opportunity to rent the room to someone else. There should be strict rules around situations like this and it is vital to have everything written down. This prevents problems surfacing later on.

Another important aspect is to consider what your council permit allows. If a practitioner is at your rooms and they have their own appointment book, they will be counted as one of your practitioners on site. So, if you have a limited number of practitioners that you’re allowed to have at any one time, this is something that you need to consider before taking on any allied health professional.

 

Final thoughts

Ultimately, it’s all about weighing up the value to your business versus potential income.

Engaging tenants at your rooms can be tricky to get right. RWS can assist you in this area. Our team works with medical practices of all size across Australia and have seen all the good, and the bad, surrounding these types of agreements.

Privacy policies for practices

 

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in January 2023

Privacy policies for practices
Privacy is paramount when it comes to a patients health information. Of equal importance is protecting their personal information online and how they interact with your website. Recent cyberattack events in Australia and abroad have reminded us about the importance of properly collecting and storing the information of patients. Whether you are a general practice or a specialist clinic, privacy policies for medical practices in Australia are a must due to the sharing of sensitive health information.

What is a privacy Policy?
A privacy policy is a statement that explains how an organisation or agency handles your personal information.  Any organisation or agency the Privacy Act 1988 covers (which includes Medical Practices) must have a privacy policy in place.  If a business collects any sensitive information, such as health records, a Privacy Policy is legally required.

A Privacy Policy contains a multitude of items, including…
– business name and contact details
– what kinds of personal information they collect and store
– how they collect personal information and where it is stored
– the reasons why they need to collect personal information
– how theyll use and disclose personal information
– how you can access your personal information, or ask for a correction

The policy should be freely available to patients, so that they know it exists and can be accessed. RWS recommends that a printed and laminated copy of the Privacy Policy be kept at reception as well as being displayed on your website. You can also make reference to it in your registration forms and/or other notices.

Website T&Cs
Whilst a Privacy Policy is compulsory under law for medical practices, website Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) are not in some cases. Nonetheless, website T&Cs are recommended for any medical practice that owns a website.

Website T&Cs provide a governance structure that outlines what must be complied with in order to use the website. They are also essential in providing you with protection from any potential claims by website users.

Website T&Cs might be considered optional, but if you practice offers products for sale or takes bookings and pre-payments via the site, then website T&Cs are just as important.

Further help
If your practice is missing either of these documents, we are able to assist you in developing these.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has useful information about Privacy Policies.

Legislation changes that affect medical practices

 

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in January 2023

This article is to inform you of important legislative changes that will directly affect your practice in relation to your staff and their ability to disclosure and discuss pay information. Some of these changes started on 7 December 2022, but there are some changes starting later. It is important to note that these changes will affect any new and existing contracts at your practice.

Pay secrecy clauses
Pay secrecy clauses are typically included in employment contracts to prohibit employees from disclosing and/or comparing salaries. Breaches of those clauses have previously provided an employer a lawful reason to institute disciplinary action against an employee.

The amending Act provides employees with the right to:
– Share or not share information about pay or working conditions
– Ask other employees about their pay or working conditions

Any new contracts must not contain any “pay secrecy” clauses. Also, if you have existing contracts that include a “pay secrecy clause”, you don’t need to do anything. The legislation simply makes these clauses “null and void”.

Job Ads
From 7 January 2023, job advertisements can’t include pay rates that would breach:

– the Fair Work Act, or
– a fair work instrument (such as an award or enterprise agreement).Several other changes have also been introduced surrounding flexible working arrangements and fixed-term contracts. You can find more information here.

Our advice to you
There are many ways of incentivising staff that are not just related to salary. At a small practice it can be difficult when salaries are discussed among employees, so extra incentives you can apply to your staff can come under the realm of training.

You can offer to staff training in different areas such as clinical areas, professional development, and their own personal development. Staff really enjoy the fact that you have interest in their welfare and this can be a way of also motivating staff not just through salary, so that they they feel that this is more part of a salary package, and therefore may pay less attention to “who gets what” at the practice.

Cybersecurity Insurance

 

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in December 2022 

Many of you will have closely followed the recent headlines regarding the hacking of personal information held by Optus and Medibank.  No doubt it has caused major headaches and disruption for all parties concerned.  Medical practices both large and small are susceptible to hacking, particularly with many opting for Cloud based Medical Software.

A couple of interesting facts:

– $33,442 is the average size loss for medium sized business
– #1 – Cyber incidents are now considered the top risk facing business’s globally according to Allianz Risk Barometer
– 13% – Cyber reports increased by nearly 13% between 2019-20 and 2020-21
As we hurtle towards the end of another year, RWS suggest that all practices review their insurances, and in particular the possibility of taking out Cyber Insurance.
What is Cyber Insurance?
Cyber Insurance is designed to help protect your business from the financial impacts of computer hacking, computer deception or a data breach.  It can occur because of human error, malicious actions by disgruntled employees, by organised crime gangs, acts of war or disruption by Nation States.
What does it cover?
  1. Losses to your business:
    1. Covers your financial loss because of a Cyber attack
    2. Covers Cyber extortion and the costs associated with managing the Cyber attack
    3. Covers the costs associated with recovering and replacing your records and other business data
  2. Third party losses:
    1. Covers your Liability from data breaches that result in losses of third party data held on your system
    2. Funds your legal defence costs for claims
    3. Covers your legal expenses and costs of fines arising from investigation from government regulators
    4. Covers the costs of copyright infringement, defamation claims, and misuse of certain types of intellectual property online
  3. Extra Covers:
    1. The costs of notifying customers of a security breach, and monitoring their credit card details to prevent further attacks
Who should consider it?
– If your business has a website, or uses the internet, or maintains electronic records, then you are vulnerable to a Cyber attack.
– A cyber attack could cost your business more than money, as it could also threaten your reputation, threaten your intellectual property or compromise your client’s personal information
What to do now?
  1. You should review your practice’s IT security and practices. Remember the easiest way to “hack” into your practice is via a current employee’s login.
  2. Consider contacting your insurance broker / current insurer to arrange Cyber insurance. If you don’t have a broker, RWS can provide the names of a couple of insurance brokers.

Three tips to protect yourself online

 

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in October 2022 

As you are probably aware, Optus was the most recent victim of a cyberattack and exposed the personal details of over nine million customers. Whilst cyberattacks like these are somewhat commonplace in today’s digital world, this breach was particularly concerning given the exposure of important document IDs, such as passport number and drivers licence number.

This recent cyberattack is a valuable reminder of the vulnerabilities of having so much of our personal details and business activities online. Given this attack and the recent rise in online scams, it is important to make sure you are taking steps at your practice to protect sensitive information. Here are three tips to help you do so:

Updates
Cybercriminals and viruses look to exploit weaknesses in software to get into your device. Perhaps the easiest method to ensure you aren’t a victim is to keep your devices up to date. By always updating to the latest version, you are ensuring that any weaknesses are being constantly fixed so cybercriminals can’t get in. Remember to keep on auto-updates!

MFA
Multi-factor authentication is a security measure that requires two or more proofs of identity to grant you access, i.e., username/password and authenticating via phone. Having MFA is vital, as if criminals gain access to one proof of identity, they still won’t be able to access your account without the second.

Backups
Data is important to all our devices. If a device is lost, damaged by a virus or stolen, your data may be lost forever. Regularly backing up your data is vital in ensuring that data is never lost completely. Backup both to a physical disk and to an online source for even better coverage.

Please visit www.cyber.gov.au to learn more about online safety, scams, and the recent Optus data breach.

New CPD requirements

 

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in October 2022 

As of 1 January 2023, the new MBA requirements require you to log 50 hours of CPD every year, complete a professional development plan and refresh your skills with one CPR course in the triennium.

With the 2020-2022 CPD triennium set to conclude on 31st December 2022, if you are looking to host an educational event prior to the end of the year, now is the time to start planning. Educational sessions are seminal to building your profile among referrers.

Your referrers love to attend education sessions that include CPD points, so to support this RWS continues to send more and more team members to accreditation training. Points are a big drawcard for attendees.

If you are interested in hosting a CPD educational activity, please contact laura@roomswithstyle.com.au

RACS phases out gendered titles for surgeons

Note: This article appeared in the RWS Newsletter in January 2022 

As per a 2021 media release by RACS, the college is aiming to phase out the use of gendered titles such as Mr or Ms and would like to encourage the use of Dr or other appropriate titles, such as Associate Professor.

Surgery is one of the only professions that continues to use gendered titles in Australia and New Zealand. This can be confusing for patients because it can create a perception that Dr Y and Mr X have different qualifications, when in fact they do not.

Gendered titles such as Mr can contribute to implicit bias against female surgeons and many patients still unfairly question the qualifications of female surgeons.

There is no reason to differentiate surgeons by including a reference to gender in titles. RWS and RACS encourages and will use the title ‘Dr’ to refer to surgeons and encourage them to make this change in their private or personal practices.

If you need assistance in changing any aspects of a business or practice, please contact us on 1300 073 239.