Use these techniques to promote effective collaboration.
Decide which representative body is right for your project
Take into account the various representative interests when you are deciding which organisations best serve your needs.
Be clear about the purpose of engagement
This will dictate who you need to engage.
General practitioners tend to be clinically focused and therefore are well placed to contribute to developing service responses.
However, many general practitioners have experience in planning and system design and could contribute at this level.
Early consultation ensures a better level of collaboration and goodwill.
Gain formal agreement from the organisation to work in partnership
Seek formal agreement from the CEO of the organisation with whom you are working.
This provides endorsement at a senior level within the organisation and authority for your work.
Agreement can include written endorsement of a work plan, a contract, partnership agreement or a memorandum of understanding.
Agree on how you will work together and define expectations and responsibilities
At the start, agree how you will approach working together. Take time to define the expectations and responsibilities of all parties.
Consider the plan-do-study-act approach
The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) methodology is a suitable change management process to follow when working with general practice and may be a useful model for department staff.
The PDSA cycle is well recognised by general practice.
Build links between similar initiatives
Build links with department branches that are implementing initiatives with similar goals, audience and timeframes and to building on Commonwealth initiatives.
This allows the department to work with consistency and coordination.
Consolidate and, where possible, rationalise the engagement between the Department of Health and Human Services, state-funded services and the general practice sector.
This will maximise effort and promote constructive and worthwhile engagement.
Recognise the business environments of general practice
General practitioners operate in a small business environment.
You should consider the timing of meetings and the time involved for practice staff and general practitioners to attend.
Consider reimbursing participants for their time, and always give enough notice for meetings – about three weeks.
Employees within organisations may not have the same constraints, but have to work within the priorities of their organisation.
Be aware of the time and resources required to build effective relationships
Recognise the time and resources (both staff commitment and financial) to build effective partnerships.
Develop work plans and performance measures appropriate to the level of funding
Expectations need to be realistic and match the level of funding available.
Develop a realistic work plan that clearly sets out what is to be achieved and by whom.
At the start, think about setting performance measures that reflect what is trying to be achieved.
The best way to reach general practice is through Primary Health Networks
Primary Health Networks (PHNs) generally communicate with all general practitioners in their catchment.
They make judgements about initiatives, their relevance to general practice, and the interest/engagement that it is likely to generate.
PHNs will therefore attempt to interpret where general practice ‘fits in’.
Use the suggested protocol to select a general practitioner
When seeking representation from a general practitioner, use the established protocol of the general practitioner organisation you have contacted (see example from VPHNA).
Allow for remuneration
Organisations such as the PHNs may remunerate general practitioners in various ways.
Boards or committees of management may be paid a stipend or an hourly rate.
Commonly an hourly rate is paid to general practitioners and general practice staff for involvement on subcommittees, working groups, as program advisors and representatives at forums/meetings and with other stakeholders.
Generally, general practitioners are compensated for time lost in their practice but, more importantly, for their expertise, experience and clinical knowledge.
General practitioners at local, state and federal levels provide input into planning, strategy, health reform and decision making.
Similarly, practice nurses also represent their organisations, provide advice, and participate on subcommittees and working groups. Remuneration to cover practice nurse time out of a practice should also be taken into account.
PHNs will communicate and consult with other elements of the health sector about any matters relating to general practice. However, if some level of practice change is sought, practice detailing may be needed.
Given that is resource intensive, PHNs are unlikely to be in a position to do this without additional resources.
Clearly identify the role for the general practitioner
PHNs need to understand the role required of the GP and/or general practice in order to market the initiative. This clinical role needs to be aligned within current Commonwealth initiatives, and in consideration of the Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) and practice incentives.
GPs are clinically focused and well placed to contribute to developing a service response and ensuring access pathways. PHNs can respond on system issues and utilise their relationship with general practice through their GP led Clinical Advisory Councils and/or membership arrangements
Hold meetings at GP friendly times
Depending on the time required and location, lunchtime, early morning before 8.30 am or early evening are often preferable times for meetings. Remuneration should always be considered. Consider also arranging meetings at the general practice location in some cases.
Be conscious of the fact that the nature and the structure of general practice is changing
In recent years, general practices have made increasing use of practice managers, business managers and practice nurses.
Depending on the issue under discussion, these positions are influential additional contact points within a practice. PHNs should be able to advise on the best point of contact in any given instance.