The Eastern Ranges GP Association tweeted recently that they were holding a “GP Think Lab”. I asked if they’d write a piece explaining what this means, and here is their response.
Mark Caldwell and Belinda Franken write:
Throughout the country, general practitioners are busily working away in their practices, often struggling with the systems they have in place, the systems thrust upon them, and those that simply don’t exist. It’s not necessarily their fault that they are in a situation whereby there are so many patients, so much work and so little time.
The nature of the beast that is general practice in Australia is that GPs run their practice as they see fit and do what needs to be done to provide their patients with the best possible care and to hopefully turn a buck.
Out in the land of general practice there are those special GPs that are doing things differently. They are the innovators, the risk takers; the ones that make you say to yourself “Why didn’t I think of that?” These GPs are thinking outside the square and making the systems work for them and if that doesn’t work, scrapping it altogether and starting from scratch.
At Eastern Ranges GP Association (ERGPA), we wanted to start a dialogue with these people. We wanted to get them into one room and get them talking about innovations in their practices.
Enter the GP Think Lab, where providing our GPs with a forum to explore opportunities for changing their practice is the sole objective. With no anticipated outcomes a question was posed to which the discussion naturally progressed down some very interesting pathways. “What does innovation mean in your practice?”
To innovate or not to innovate, to work smarter not harder, innovation involves risk, collaboration, GPs, nurses, allied health professionals and a 360 degree approach to patient care. Needless to say, a full-bodied discussion took place.
ERGPA’s GP Think Lab is made of 6 passionate GPs from various types and sizes of practices, and a small group of senior staff. The relaxed format allowed people to bring to the table things that they have implemented in their practices to make life easier for them and improve the care for their patients.
The collaborative approach to patient care is certainly where primary health care is heading, and this clearly sparked the minds in GP Think Lab.
But how are these connections being made in and around general practice, if at all? And when these connections are made, how are they maintained? Is there a system to embrace sound continuity of care between GPs and allied health professionals, GPs and specialists, GPs and the public health system?
The World English Dictionary defines collaborate as “to cooperate as a traitor, esp with an enemy occupying one’s own country”. Now there are certainly no “enemies” amongst primary health care professionals, but it does seem like some work may need to go into forging quality relationships between the many disciplines of primary health care for the best possible outcome for the patient.
The theme that resonated around the table initially was that GPs are time poor and find the volume of patients to be constantly growing. Nothing new there.
What was new was how this group of GPs have tackled these issues head on to make their practice streamlined, effective, time efficient and ultimately to improve the health outcomes for their patients.
A couple of GPs from separate practices discussed the success of “Quick Clinics” that they had introduced to improve the throughput of patients that were only presenting with a single health issue. These Quick Clinics operate between 1-2 hours and can be scheduled into any part of the day. They work by booking 10 minute appointments with patients that can be triaged appropriately by the receptionist.
Making referrals to allied health professionals that will provide quality services to patients and the lack of feedback provided to referring GPs has always been an issue and one that doesn’t seem to have a quick fix. Flowing from this discussion was the concept of referral brokering. The idea was about having a network of reputable allied health professionals that were local and known by GPs in the area, and for whom costs and specialised areas of work could be identified and utilised. GPs were particularly interested in the idea of being able to rate their experience with particular allied health professionals in terms of the amount of feedback provided, speed at which the patient was seen and the overall quality of service provided.
So where to from here? Yes, we will meet again in 2 months time and, although this statement was offered up early in the evening, it is a good note to end on: “innovation only happens if you have someone driving it”.
Agreed, and at the very least it looks like the GP Think Lab certainly has some drivers excited about the journey ahead.
• Mark Caldwell is ERGPA’s Executive Manager of Patient Services, and Belinda Franken is Communications Manager.