Better Medical goes against the flow

As wild weather and floods wreaked havoc in South Australia in late September, causing widespread power outages in Adelaide, many businesses were forced to put work on hold.

Not so the Better Medical healthcare clinic in Hahndorf, in the Adelaide Hills, where doctors continued to look after their patients.

Using cloud-based medical software, the clinic’s GPs were able to meet patients at another of the group’s clinics, safely access their medical records electronically and conduct a consultation as normal.

“The patients still received the same high-quality medical treatment,” says Nick Wells, one of the co-founders of Better Medical and a former investment banker and management consultant at Royal Bank of Scotland and ABN Amro. “It’s part of the service promise we are building with our brand.”

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A new way

This story of perseverance in the face of adversity illustrates how Better Medical, which has six clinics in SA, is doing things differently as it pursues its ultimate goal of creating the nation’s leading primary healthcare general practice clinics in Australia.

The brains behind Better Medical are two married couples: Wells and his accountant wife Katie, and Dr Kara Jansen—a GP and the medical director of the group—and her husband Marcus Jansen, an ex-investment banker at Macquarie Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.

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Since launching Better Medical about two years ago, all four have sought to expand the business through acquisitions and organic growth and are negotiating with other clinics in SA to join the fold. Quality family medical clinics around the country are also in their sights.

Wells believes there is a tremendous opportunity to innovate and establish a premium national brand in the traditionally conservative GP clinic space at a time when bulk-billing practices are under pressure because of a government freeze on rebates.

“We see a lot of room for improvement in this space,” he says.

The key, according to Wells, will be to deliver a holistic service encompassing high-quality preventative and general health care, along with advice in areas such as nutrition and exercise.

Commitment to quality

In this early phase of its business, Better Medical’s focus has been on building a brand based on high-quality medical treatment, great patient service and market-leading technology, all while retaining the local, trusted feel for which GP clinics are known.

Marcus Jansen says quality must be the foundation stone of the business. To that end, Better Medical are selective about the clinics and doctors it takes on, even if that results in slower business growth. This decision has also informed the choice of the company’s name; the word ‘Better’ sends out an external signal that the company will strive to deliver superior healthcare services, while internally driving a commitment to excellence.

“The word ‘better’ says what we are trying to do,” Jansen says.

While Better Medical is seeking a national footprint, an aggressive Australia-wide advertising campaign is not on the agenda any time soon. In-clinic branding will be crucial as individual clinics win over patients, spread the message and build the overall referral network.

“The branding happens from the experience that you have when you interact with one of our businesses,” Jansen says. “If we can deliver on our promise of better service and healthcare, we know that it’ll drive the business and the brand.”

Wells adds that in a “very siloed industry”, GPs have become used to working by themselves with minimal support from an administrative team. Better Medical’s broader branding goal is to promote a “culture of togetherness” where doctors, other medical staff and admin teams all work in harmony.

“As part of our brand we’re developing the culture of our team and breaking down those silo walls.”

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Innovative approach

Part of the plan is to build a brand that is known for technology and innovation. Expect patient-facing apps and video consultations to be the norm for patients who want such features, whether millennials or baby boomers.

Jansen says medical clinics are “coming from a very low base” with IT and technology because of legacy systems, conservatism and fears around patient privacy.

“It needs someone to grab the bull by the horns and really drive that agenda,” he says.

Wells and Jansen believe the combined banking, business and medical strengths of the four founders gives Better Medical an edge. In a sector where GPs may see 30 to 40 patients a day, they have little time to work on financial strategies, technology implementation and recruitment and retention.

“It takes time and grunt work to implement a new clinical software suite,” Wells says. “It takes time to implement new communication tools that we will be pushing out through our business. The advantage of having slightly broader corporate experience is that we can see what other industries are doing and what is happening in customer service in the retail space and all manner of industries and bring that best practice to Better Medical.”

For now, though, Better Medical’s growth and branding success will hinge on meeting its promises to GPs and patients.

As Jansen says: “Marketing of a brand starts with performance and how you deliver your product or service. Until you get a team working well together in a productive culture it’s difficult to deliver good performance.”

Based on its early success, the future looks bright for Better Medical, blackouts or not.

Written by Cameron Cooper

The articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the Bank. You should seek independent professional advice before acting on any matters set out in the articles.

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