Former practice manager Shafeek Caunhye on how your practice can streamline how it deals with the often complex and time-consuming issue of facilities management.
In an environment where mergers, federations and practice takeovers have become increasingly popular, can we still ensure facilities management compliance while staying on top of costs?
On one hand, large-scale providers are working out ways to streamline services, collaborating across their different member sites in a bid to reduce costs and increase consistency when it comes to meeting CQC standards.
On the other hand, smaller providers with fewer than three partners are finding it increasingly difficult to cope while competing with larger providers in offering core services.
So, with growing overheads, CQC inspections around the corner and buildings that require constant maintenance, what are the solutions for practices? Let us briefly look at what is likely to work and at what price because, let’s be honest, that’s usually the main reason you decide to invest, or not.
Technology and time
There are numerous approaches to addressing compliance. However, whether it’s a bespoke standalone solution or a robust system that is holistic in looking at the running of a practice, there is a common theme; the tendency to tackle the issue by generating further documentation for practice staff to complete.
The cost of the different types of software that can be used in practice management has decreased over the last few years but they still require the most expensive elements of all to run – staff and time.
Growing patient list sizes means a heavier workload, but not always a correlating increase in staff numbers. So do staff have the time to complete compliance tasks with the consistency required? Practice managers will know the challenge of managing a team, while also keeping an eye on compliance, all too well.
There is always the option of the high-end technological solution; Building Information Modelling (BIM), which proactively diagnoses a building and provides data on the areas that need attention.
However, this is a very expensive solution and quite frankly overkill for general practice. BIM is best suited to large buildings that can accommodate a considerable number of people at any one time – such as hospitals and shopping centres.
For a GP surgery, seeing a return on an investment in BIM could take decades. So, where does this leave practices?
Freeing up time
It’s becoming more and more popular for practices to assign in-house staff to facilities management responsibilities.
However, a lack of expertise in this area means they often spend a huge amount of time finding the right suppliers for tasks such as risk assessment and equipment maintenance – duties that are affected by the budgetary reality of the marketplace. We all know that once you add the word ‘medical,’ you can expect an automatic price hike.
Overseeing facilities management is really a full-time job in itself, but that can be difficult to justify to the practice partners and, unless the person has been recruited into the position from a previous facilities management role, it’s important to train them in this, and on compliance. Which is an investment, although worthwhile if they are likely to stay for a longer period of time.
Outsourcing is a powerful tool when competing with other practise, as it frees up time for the practice manager to focus on other things, including key revenue generating areas such as flu vaccinations and the provision of specialist clinics, for example ophthalmology clinics.
It could also give the practice manager more time to concentrate on aspects promoted in the General Patrice Five Year Forward View, such as growing the practice team to incorporate a wider range of roles, including paramedics and mental health professionals.
Which can be a time-consuming process to get up and running. Coupled with the right technology, outsourcing can become both cost-effective and forward thinking when it comes to increasing efficiency and enhancing service delivery in practices.
Of course, there is always an argument for outsourcing. Pay a fee and all matters of compliance and property maintenance can be handled by experts. This saves you the hassle of training staff ad dealing with workforce issues such as sickness and holidays. As well as being time saving, it gives you a team of experts to call on when issues arise.
As property experts handle maintenance and compliance at scale, they are likely to have highly accurate software to help you keep track of the works required on the premises – creating a more efficient way of working.
Most rewarding is the time saved by the management team, freeing them up to focus on delivering innovative projects to the practice population and generating welcome additional income
There is often an assumption that outsourcing is expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The annual investment in this tends to be less than the cost of one (non-clinical) whole time equivalent member of staff.
Whether choosing the in-house or outsourcing option, seeking expert guidance not only saves time but also money in the long run.
Shafeek Caunhye is director of Surgery Facilities Management (SFM), a facilities management company dedicated to working with GP practices.