By Dr Jared Dart BSc BA MBBS PhD FRACGP

COVID 19 Fiveways Surgery Update 13 April 2020

Dear Patients

In this email I will discuss:

  • How we need to address the threats posed by this pandemic, both immediate and delayed
  • How maintaining your health (physical and mental) is the best thing you can do to protect yourself
  • How Fiveways Surgery is supporting you and how you can support Fiveways Surgery

Thank you for all the heartfelt responses to my email communications, I am grateful for your feedback and support. We are still welcoming new patients so please pass on your recommendations to family and friends.

For those who have emailed us to register for our Flu vaccine clinics – please be patient, we have not forgotten you. The Government is distributing flu vaccines in a staged fashion and we will notify you when we have received the next batch of vaccines. There is also a shortage of Pneumonia vaccines – however, most of our vulnerable and eligible patients have already received one over the previous years. Please remember that physical distancing measures and the lack on international travel greatly reduce the risk of getting influenza this year, so there is no rush to vaccinate. The usual influenza peak occurs in July/August in Brisbane.

Now that we are coming to terms with the changes COVID19 has had on our community, it is very important we do not neglect the usual primary care we need to keep ourselves and our family healthy.

The graphic below reflects what can happen in a pandemic. The illness associated with the novel virus is often dwarfed by the mental health and chronic disease exacerbations that follow.

We are committed to ensuring this is mitigated for our patients. We are still conducting face to face services where necessary, with safeguards in place to protect you and our staff. If you have an urgent need, please do not delay treatment out of fear of contracting the virus. We can discuss your concerns by video or telephone and arrange the necessary care in the most appropriate way.

Waves of a pandemic – associated impacts can be worse than the disease 
Courtesy Twitter Victor Tseng  https://twitter.com/VectorSting/status/1244671755781898241/photo/1

Addressing these issues starts with a conversation with your GP

In order to facilitate your engagement with us we have decided to bulk bill all telephone or video consultations less than 15 minutes for the month of April. This will be reviewed on a month by month basis. This represents a 55% reduction on our usual fees. Face to face services will be charged according to our usual fee structure.

We will also be reaching out to our patients with chronic diseases to create or update their Chronic disease management plans. Together lets make sure we optimise your health. If we call asking to arrange a care plan, please prioritise finding the time to work through our evidence based, care planning process.

The graphic below displays how vulnerable people with chronic disease can be to COVID19. This should not make you fearful, the chances of contracting COVID19 are very low, whereas the chances of suffering an illness associated with your chronic disease are quite high. The best thing you can do is keep engaged with your GP to manage your chronic diseases diligently and effectively.

Please call us or make an appointment online to discuss a chronic disease plan. 

Image source: https://theconversation.com/why-are-older-people-more-at-risk-of-coronavirus-133770

Chronic disease plans

In order to address your chronic diseases, you need to understand:

  • What chronic health conditions you have.
  • How you can measure them, what targets you should aim for, and how well controlled these conditions are.
  • How you can improve the control and reduce the complications associated with them.
  • What medications and activities are recommended for each condition.

We have designed a specific template to address these issues and will work with your specialists and supporting allied health practitioners to improve your health. Many of these allied health and specialists are now conducting telehealth consultations.

The process will take place over two consultations. An initial consultation to explain the process and determine your health priorities and a subsequent one to discuss the chronic disease plan.

To assist us with this process we would like you to email our Health Coordinator at health@fiveways.online  – we will then be in touch to arrange a telehealth consultation. Alternatively, call to arrange an appointment with your GP.

Dr Dart’s Telehealth Set Up
The following picture shows our current set up for telehealth consultations:

  • Tablet for video or phone calling patients
  • Usual computer for accessing and recording notes
  • Wireless ear phones and microphone

Supporting Fiveways Surgery

As the owner and Practice Principal of Fiveways Surgery, I fund and support the operations of the clinic. Due to successive Government’s defunding of Primary Care, we are now in a difficult financial position. We have had to self fund personal and protective equipment and I have spent countless hours working to protect my staff and our patients. By freezing Medicare, the Government removed $1B of funding from General Practice over the last 10 years. Ironically, as less people engage with General Practice due to the social distancing measures, the Government saves even more from reduced Medicare expenditure.

The drop in patient engagement, coupled with Government policy mandating bulk billing of telehealth items, threatens our viability. Support for small business via the Job Keeper and Tax Offsets programs will go some way to helping, but will not be enough given current projections. We know that many of you are suffering financial stress too and do not wish to burden you with our struggles, but we do ask you to continue to support our clinic by booking a consultation with your GP, arranging a care plan, and getting a flu vaccine from us.

I predict 10-20% of privately owned General Practices will close as a result of COVID19 and many will be bought by large corporate groups with little or no ties to the community. This is a sad irony, given the importance of General Practice and the importance of GP owned clinics for primary care. If you feel strongly about this, I would encourage you to reach out to your Federal MP – I have been advocating for General Practice for quite some time, but a lone voice is often ignored. Without support, clinics like Fiveways Surgery will cease to exist.

We have been supporting our community since 1945 and want to continue to do so. We want to grow to be able to support even more community members.

To allow you to engage with us, address your health concerns, and optimise your chronic disease care we are offering bulk billed (no gap) short telehealth appointment and chronic disease plans.

Please call our reception, book online or email our Health Coordinator today at health@fiveways.online

Image courtesy of  https://www.pcpcc.org/about/shared-principles

Technology enhanced care

As many of you know, I have been working in eHealth since I began my PhD in 2002 inestigating using eHealth to support village clinics in India and other low income communities. This was in the pre-iphone era. As a result, I have worked in many key roles in eHealth and telemedicine before embarking on my own start up called Welio.

I have a vision for technology enabled care whereby we use message consultations, shared care planning tools, chronic disease monitoring and telehealth to enhance the care provided by Primary Care Specialists, non GP specialists and allied health.

I was fortunate to win $100 000 from the Queensland Government Ignite Ideas fund to further develop and pilot Welio and have been working hard to finalise the fourth iteration of my App which should be ready for release in 4-6 weeks time.

I believe one of the silver linings of the COVID19 pandemic is that we have all been forced to engage with telehealth like never before. I strongly believe that existing platforms do not achieve the best for technology enhanced care. If you, or your family, know anyone who would like to support my vision please ask them to email me via register@welio.com

I would like to conclude by saying thank you to all of my staff for the wonderful effort they have given during these last 2 months and to all our patients who we feel so privileged to care for.

With my warmest regards

Jared

Dr Jared Dart
Director iHealth Australia
iHealth Centres
Fiveways Surgery
Founder, Welio

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