Use the following steps to engage with general practice.
Define the purpose of engagement
Defining your purpose helps you to decide who to consult within the department, and who your first point of contact with the general practice sector should be.
For example, your purpose may be to:
- seek input from general practice into policy, programs, legislation or practice ()
- influence the work of general practice ()
- inform general practice? ()
- trial an initiative with general practice? ().
Consider what is relevant to the work of general practice and what is not.
For example, the prevention and treatment of chronic illness is core business in general practice and will always be relevant.
However, brokering better access to health services for clients of residential alcohol and drug withdrawal units may only be relevant to some general practice organisations and some general practitioners with a special interest in this area.
Consider external organisations you could work with
Consult within the department
Consult within the department about whether and who to engage.
Departmental colleagues will have experience and knowledge to assist you.
If you need to identify the right colleague, consider one or all of the following strategies:
- Browse the set of general practice engagement , which point to areas of the department with experience. The case studies may also indicate the most relevant general practice representative organisations to consider working with.
- Contact the Primary Health Engagement Team within Primary and Community Unit at the department for advice.
Consulting internally may also help you to build links with similar initiatives, and to rationalise engagement strategies across the department.
Make external contact and decide whether and how to work together
It is important to reach an agreement with a senior representative of the organisation you wish to work with.
This may be a CEO or a head of department.
Once this is achieved, negotiate an agreement about joint purpose and a strategy to work together.
Tips for successful collaboration with general practice
Consult as early as possible
Consulting early, and with a clear purpose, will make integrating general practice suggestions or guidance into the work easier.
It will also build goodwill that can be leveraged in future engagement.
Set enough time and resources for engagement
Respectful and collaborative engagement takes time – time to define your purpose, time to establish relationships and give notice for meetings, and time to allow considered input and feedback.
It may require commitment from several departmental staff, and financial resource allocation to fund meetings and travel.
If you need immediate input, it may be better to consult internally within the department.
However, once your networks and relationships with general practice are built, it will become easier to collaborate more efficiently.
Understand how general practice works
Most general practices are small businesses.
General practitioners are generally not paid a salary as in the public service – rather, their income is derived from each individual consultation with a patient, generally during business hours.
Other clinicians and staff may also be rostered or have planned clinical sessions ahead of time.
The implications for involving general practitioners and other practice staff include the following:
- The timing of meetings may need to be flexible to enable them to attend outside of their usual business hours when they are seeing patients.
- Sufficient notice for meetings should be given – generally at least three weeks.
- Reimbursement for time should be considered if they are being taken away from clinical time.
Because time is of the essence for general practice, ensure communication is succinct, informative and free from jargon.
The industry also has its own jargon, so you may sometimes need to clarify what is being communicated back to you.
Notwithstanding the advice above, general practice is diverse and you need to take this into consideration.
- Some general practices operate within publicly funded organisations such as community health services and Aboriginal community organisations. People who work in these organisations may have more ability to attend meetings during business hours.
- The size of general practices varies. In 2014 in Australia there were 2,450 solo practices, 3,075 with between two and five general practitioners, and 1,500 with six or more general practitioners.
- General practice teams vary. Smaller practices may only have general practitioners, while others have multidisciplinary teams that incorporate primary health nurses, allied health clinicians, pathologists and specialists.
Reviewed 02 December 2021