Next Practice: exploring the boundaries of primary care
Dr Sam Prince – general practitioner, humanitarian, founder of the Mexican food chain Zambrero, and Australian of the Year 2019 – is on a mission to improve healthcare in Australia and around the globe.
Sam is committed to the belief that everyone deserves the basic human rights of education and healthcare to propel themselves forward in life. This forms the foundation of the Sam Prince Group – a collection of businesses dedicated to a greater cause – whether it be tackling hunger, the supply of clean drinking water or adequate healthcare.
Among his countless humanitarian and philanthropic endeavours, Sam is the founder of a new type of primary care in Australia, Next Practice. Offering innovative and integrated healthcare, Next Practice is a revolutionary and dynamic model of general practice, aiming to improve clinics for patients and their doctors alike. Next Practice clinics provide a blend of purpose-built technology and genuine compassion to offer a unique healthcare experience. We spoke to Sam to find out more about his goals for Next Practice and Australian healthcare in general, and what makes Next Practice so ground-breaking.
Through a fascination for ‘what’s next’ in healthcare, Sam’s vision has always been to create something that was anything but just ‘best practice’. This is especially evident by Sam’s drive to explore the synergy between technological advancements and people-centred approaches to rethink the healthcare system, offering a new kind of care for the future.
Sam explained, “With people visiting medical practices more than ever, along with an increase in chronic disease and an ageing population, the healthcare system is at a critical tipping point. What is important to remember is that the current system isn’t broken – the problem is in its delivery. We need to put an end to an ‘assembly line’ approach, where doctors feel like a cog in the machine and patients feel like they are getting a cookie-cutter approach to care.
With the introduction of new life-saving techniques, genetics, digital technology and machine learning, the future of healthcare is unbelievably bright. Our role is to wrap wisdom around the power that has been unlocked right now in these fields and to redefine everyday healthcare to fit the modern-day lifestyle.”
Having such an exciting approach to general practice and the future of healthcare, Sam’s ultimate goal for Next Practice is to set the bar of what he believes primary care can and should be in Australia.
These goals, technologies and fresh approaches to general practice are all very exciting, but what does it mean for patients? Sam believes, “Now more than ever, we need to empower people to take control of managing their health. We think it is vital that personalised healthcare speaks to patient needs now and in the future.
The concept of ‘patient-centricity’ is more than just a buzzword at Next Practice. Our clinics go beyond the traditional ‘quick fix’ to provide a motivating environment where patients go for preventative care.”
A Next Practice consulting room
Next Practice seeks ways to create customised, comprehensive and collaborative care plans to assist in managing patient’s chronic conditions and improve health outcomes holistically.
All patients at a Next Practice clinic have free access to their specially created app. In addition, Next Practice provides health management features such as medication reminders, a booking widget, a tracker for capturing key metrics such as blood pressure, and it also houses a large library of useful articles. From guides on diabetes to respiratory tract infections, the Next Practice app provides patients with a wealth of information, videos and interactive models, and covers daily wellness such as diet and exercise. All of this aims to encourage patients to be an active participant in preventative care and not just considering their health needs when they come to the doctor because they are sick.
Sam highlights, “We also keep in mind at Next Practice that we cannot underestimate how connected we are as a society and will be even more so in the future. Every day, across numerous industries, from the likes of Uber, Amazon, Netflix and Apple, we enjoy seamless and convenient encounters. The same should be said for the healthcare industry. This is core to how we develop our technology.”
Next Practice implement this seamless experience with numerous touchpoints throughout their clinics, for instance, patients are asked to fill in a digital on-boarding questionnaire to provide an overview of a patient’s medical history and lifestyle choices. All information is seamlessly passed through to the practitioner, providing a holistic view of that patient’s health, all before they’ve walked through the door, leaving more time to discuss their needs, and the steps to getting the health back on track.
Sam states, “This new-aged sharing economy provokes interpersonal trust. One way we aim to change the trust within doctor-patient relationships is by providing a space where patients feel better informed on the options available and have a seat at the decision-making table. Each consult room features a patient-facing doctor’s dashboard. It provides an overview of patients’ medical data and vital measurements, as well as being an interactive tool for the practitioner to show educational information including 3D models of the body.”
It’s clear that Sam is extremely focused on improving patient experience and outcomes, however, he’s equally aware of the importance that the healthcare experience has on practice staff and GPs, specifically, if you’re looking to open your own clinic.
“Conventionally there have been two routes to explore if you are a health professional and want to open your own clinic – do it alone and figure things out as you go, such as lease negotiation, hiring staff etc., or become part of a corporate and have certain restrictions placed on you. Our goal is to create a new pathway where you have the autonomy to run your clinic as you have always dreamed of. but knowing you have a big team behind you supporting you all the way,” Sam explains.
Next Practice’s strategy is to do all the initial heavy lifting to get the clinic up and running, allowing partners to concentrate on patient care and making their ideal clinic a reality from the get-go.
For staff working in the clinic, the focus is on reducing the administrative burden to free up time to connect with patients and focus on creating a personalised experience, with more time to recharge and reconnect as a healthcare professional. This is all aided with the implementation of technology to save time and streamline patient interactions.
These technologies include the Next Practice Portal, which outlines Next Practice’s unique operating system, working hand-in-hand with the Next Practice Software Suite. Along with Peer4Peer, a platform dedicated to GP wellbeing, content for practitioners in the community, and providing a sounding board and forum for discussion.
A Next Practice Doctor uses new technologies within his consulting room.
As Next Practice utilises new technology, shifts the roles of staff, and integrates a new approach to healthcare, it comes as no surprise that the design, aesthetic, and layout of their practices, is far from the norm.
“The design of the clinics was a vital element to get right and we spent a great deal of time obsessing about the look but also the operational flow to benefit both patients and doctors.
The goal with the look and feel is to create a Zen like calmness – providing an environment where patients feel cocooned in safety. We also wanted the technology to seamlessly integrate into the design – as it should seamlessly fit into providing modern-day healthcare.
In all of our clinics, we’ve ditched the old-style waiting room and instead built a ‘Living Room’ experience where we hope patients feel more at home and relaxed. You won’t see a big reception desk, chairs all in a line, or old magazines stacked in the corner,” Sam explains.
“Instead, pockets of different seating including booths where you can charge your devices and a smaller ‘pod’ like reception desk. Each living room also features a large interactive screen that creates meditative sounds and beats like a heart when you touch it. It also shares news and interesting articles from the clinic.”
All materials used are designed to look natural including lots of greenery, and void of harsh lines or sharp edges, reducing that feeling of a barrier between the doctor and the patient.
Next Practice’s adoption of new technology means their Patient Advocates (a new spin on a traditional receptionist), are no longer confined to the front desk. They’re free to move around the practice, ensuring each patient receives seamless and supportive care, assisting pre and post-consult.
Again, reiterating the shift from cookie-cutter care, each practice is designed and built to best reflect the local area and the doctors that own it, leaving each practice feeling unique.
Stepping out of the practice and focusing on global healthcare, as a passionate humanitarian, Sam has implemented a program, Care 4 Care – Next Practice’s commitment to supporting the World Health Organisation’s goal of providing Universal Health Coverage.
“We want to provide a bridge to those who are less fortunate than us in any way we can, so for every consultation at one of our clinics, we donate a vaccination to someone in need in the developing world.
We are fortunate enough to partner with UNICEF Australia in order to do this and currently we support the distribution of Maternal Tetanus (MNT) vaccinations in Papua New Guinea.”
Pioneering the experience of patients, staff, and practitioners, Next Practice is creating a new, inviting, exciting, and futuristic space in primary healthcare. What an incredible initiative! To find out more about Next Practice, or to get involved, head to nextpracticehealth.com. Thank you to Dr Sam Prince and the team at Next Practice for taking the time to chat about all you are doing in the sector locally and internationally.