Quality Improvement activity benefits practice and patients

In Central Queensland, News, Sunshine Coast, Wide Bay by Jasmin Midgley

A general practice in Gympie is helping to improve the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community – and grow its patient base – after successfully implementing a 12-month quality improvement activity last year.

The quality improvement activity promoted the importance of 715 health check, the preventative health assessment designed specifically to support the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Southside Medical Centre Practice Manager Carolyn Ellis said it was the first time the practice had run a quality improvement activity.

“We had completed 715 health checks in the past on an ad hoc basis and wanted to encourage eligible patients to complete them, so we thought this would be a good place to start,” Ms Ellis said.

“Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN helped us with the quality improvement process and were available every step of the way with tips, advice and suggestions which we were able to implement.

“The initial aim was to increase the number of 715s by six percent each quarter over the course of the year, and we’ve actually exceeded that target.”

Using the PEN tool and Best Practice software, Southside identified the number of patients they had in the practice who were eligible for the 715 health check.

“We made a spreadsheet and then looked at the last time each patient had had an assessment,” Ms Ellis said.

“There were 281 patients who hadn’t visited the practice in the past two years, and those are the ones we set about contacting, which meant about 11 phone calls each week.

“We have a really good office manager who is great on the phone and great at explaining the benefits of the health check.

“Patients respond really well to phone calls as a means of contact.

“It started off quite slow but then we did 40 in a month and then we thought we need to spread them out a bit!”

PHN primary healthcare officer Amber Scott said she encourages practices who are developing their own quality improvement activities for the first time to start small.

“Focus on a particular age cohort, patients for one GP for example, or even just look at the first ten patients,” Ms Scott said.

“This way you can test to see if an idea works.”

“Once you’ve established an idea is sound, it’s important to recognise that any spike in appointments will also create a spike when these patients return for their next appointment.

“Practices need to leave aside time for day-to-day appointments as well.”

Southside Medical Centre’s initial 12-month quality improvement activity has been so successful they’ve continued with the approach.

“We are still recording the number of 715 health checks we complete, and we have graphs up in the staff room for everyone to see to keep us on track,” Ms Ellis said.

“Last quarter we saw a 12% increase – that’s double our original goal.”

“We are seeing more of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients coming into the practice now, they like coming into our practice, they tell their friends and family and so they come too.”

“We’ve put in place more programs for chronic disease management, and most of our staff have completed cultural awareness training.

“It started as quality improvement but it’s now just part of our business as usual.”

If you’d like more information on running a quality improvement activity in your general practice, please contact the PHN’s primary healthcare team: www.ourphn.org.au/practice-support.