ActivHeal Outstanding Achievement in Wound Care Award = Nurse Maree!

A massive congrats to nurse Maree, the recent recipient of the ActivHeal Outstanding Achievement in Wound Care Award for 2023 for the Oceania region. Maree has been recognised for a lifelong commitment of 41 years to wound care, and for her role in educating others to ensure positive patient outcomes. Here she is pictured with Andrew Brennen of Team Medical Supplies, and with nominator nurse Aline. Blackburn Clinic is so very lucky to have Maree leading our dedicated team of nurses.

.

Patient Feedback Survey Results

The General Practice located at Blackburn Clinic (Suite 5) surveyed 351 patients using a Practice Accreditation and Improvement Survey (PAIS). The PAIS is a well-established patient survey widely used by general practices across Australia to gather valuable feedback from patients, which informs meaningful quality improvement within the organisation.
97% of all patient ratings about the Blackburn Clinic general practice were ’good, very good or excellent’.

There were 28 areas assessed by the survey and the results were so positive that it was difficult to choose areas that we should target for improvement. We were excited to learn that the patient feedback from our previous accreditations (in 2016 and 2019) shows that we have consistently improved in all 28 areas over those seven years!

When compared with other metropolitan clinics of similar size we scored in the upper and middle quartiles for everything. In order to select the three areas with the greatest room for improvement, we have compared against ALL participating practices (regardless of size and location):

Seeing the doctor of choice

We scored 71 compared to the benchmark median score of 81 (out of 100)

We understand the frustration with not being able to see your doctor of choice every time. The next best option is for you to choose a “back-up doctor” from the quality group of GPs who consult from Blackburn Clinic, Blackburn Specialist Centre and the Carson Suite.  That way you can get to know a second doctor, so that when your first choice isn’t available you can still see someone familiar.

Not all GPs can work full-time. As independent medical practitioners they need to balance their time, commitments and health like everyone else. As you may appreciate, GPs have a high intensity job and need to ensure that they remain at the top of their game in order to treat patients safely and effectively. Therefore, your GP will not be available every week of the year. One advantage for Carson Suite patients is that they have access to a pool of 24 GPs across the three sites, meaning that they can still access care even when their preferred GP is not available.

 

Although we understand the frustration of having to choose between waiting for an appointment with your GP, or taking an earlier appointment with another GP that you don’t know, this is a situation that is unfortunately unlikely to change. Some things that you can do to manage such situations include:

  • Speak up – ask questions about your condition, the treatment options, why the GP is recommending one option more than other options.
  • Ask for an information flyer about your condition if you want more detail. This is always better than relying on “Dr Google” because the GP will use reliable sources for the information.
  • Ask the GP to read the notes that your usual GP wrote at a previous visit if you are struggling to explain your situation.
  • The 5 questions recommended by ‘Choosing Wisely Australia’ are:
    1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
    2. What are the risks?
    3. Are there simpler, safer options?
    4. What would happen if I don’t do anything about it?
    5. What are the costs likely to be?

Information on fees

We scored 77 compared to the benchmark median score of 83 (out of 100)

This criteria was identified for improvement by a patient feedback survey at Blackburn Specialist Centre in May 2023, and since then we have expanded the amount of information on our websites regarding fees (there is a page on each website labelled FEES).  We have also increased the amount of information on the waiting room TVs about fees. Your feedback shows we need to do even more.

“There are nearly 6,000 MBS item numbers. GPs can charge for one or more MBS items for a patient service.” (Source: https://theconversation.com/medicare-billing-is-a-problem-but-our-research-found-many-more-gps-undercharge-203561). As costs differ for different item numbers, and reception cannot predict which item numbers will be billed, this means there are many possibilities when it comes to the cost of a visit.

We empathise with patients and understand that uncertainty around fees can be stressful. Patients are encouraged to discuss any financial difficulties with their GP.

We will investigate adding an insert page to our Patient Information Brochure, with more examples of commonly billed item numbers and associated fees. We can also increase the number of examples on the FEES page of our websites. The GPs who consult from Blackburn Clinic Carson Suite are independent medical practitioners, with full discretion over their own billing. To maximise consistency, we have a Standard Gap during Mon-Fri (8am-6pm) for most ‘consultation’ items of $60.60, and a Concession Gap that is roughly half the Standard Gap.

Opportunity for making complaints

We scored 76 compared to the benchmark median score of 81 (out of 100)

We encourage feedback and view it as an opportunity for improvement. We have a permanent “Feedback/Suggestions” box fixed to the wall of the waiting room at Blackburn Clinic, with forms available under that box. Alternately, you can:

  • write to the Practice Manager (PO Box 42, Blackburn South VIC 3130, or
  • email admin@blackburnclinic.com.au and your feedback/complaint will be passed on to the most appropriate team members for response.

If you need to take the matter further, you may contact the Health Complaints Commissioner, Level 26, 570 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000. Phone: 1800 582 113.

We thank the patients who completed surveys for Blackburn Clinic and are overjoyed that the vast majority of feedback showed that our efforts to provide professional and caring service are being recognised.

Our mission: Providing exceptional healthcare to our community.

Congratulations Wendy!

Last week our intrepid Office Manager, Wendy Cooney, headed off into the retirement phase of her life. Wendy was always a calm and steady influence, no matter what was thrown at her by Medicare or international pandemics! Wendy has experienced many changes since she started at Blackburn Clinic 35 years ago, especially in the area of technology. She embraced changes with dignity and so we’re sure she’ll thrive with this latest change.
We will miss Wendy enormously but wish her all the best with her campervan travels and other endeavours. Her large family will continue to keep her busy.

Movember update – $3,686 raised so far

It’s almost the end of the month, so we thought you’d want to see a pic of our team’s Moustache progress! Here are Drs Yashar, Connoley and Qi sporting their ‘taches!

We are proud of the whole team for their activities (many preferred to Walk rather than grow facial hair!) and fundraising. There is still time to support Movember, who do great work for Men’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate and testicular cancer.

Here’s the link to our team page:

https://au.movember.com/team/2299231

What is the Medicare Safety Net?

When you spend over a certain amount in a calendar year (1 Jan to 31 Dec) you qualify for a larger Medicare rebate. The Safety Net can help to lower your out of pocket costs.
If you’re single, you’ll automatically receive the higher rebates once you reach the threshold. But if you’re part of a family, you need to register by downloading a form from Services Australia website, via the Medicare Express Plus app, or by calling the Medicare general enquiries line (132 011).

Video Consultations

Video consults may not be suitable for every medical condition or every person, but they can be a useful service which the GPs are pleased to now offer. Face-to-face consults remain the gold standard and there will be a range of medical problems that your GP is unable to treat via video. Physical examinations may be required for the GP to establish a diagnosis, manage certain conditions and to prevent gaps in care. Patients are asked to respect their GP’s decisions regarding suitability of video consults for their condition, as GPs are not obliged to offer video telehealth consults.

Patients can now book video consults online for most GPs who consult at Blackburn Clinic sites. Using the AMS Connect app on your phone or tablet is easy if you have booked your video consult online:

  • You will receive an automated message 5 minutes prior to the Video Consult, containing a link to the internet method of joining the video consult (in case you don’t want to use the app). Please note that if you use a computer for the internet link, it will need to have a microphone & camera attached.
  • Or you can join the video consult by opening your AMS Connect mobile app and clicking on the AMS Video Appointments button. Then click ‘Join Conference’. Depending on your device, you may be prompted to allow access to your camera and microphone, in which case select “OK” or “Allow”.
  • If the doctor has connected, the video function will start immediately. If the doctor has not yet connected, a message will ask you to Wait. When the doctor connects the video consult will commence automatically.

All telehealth consults (phone and video consults) now require you to provide credit card details at the time of booking the appointment. However, normal billing practices remain in place. If your GP decides to bill your visit to Medicare then your credit card will not be charged. DVA patients will continue to be bulk-billed. Where the telehealth consult is privately billed, the payment will automatically be charged to your credit card once the GP specifies the charge. This process removes the inconvenience of you having to wait for an SMS with a payment link and then having to make an online payment.

Where you are eligible for a Medicare rebate, this will be submitted to Medicare for you, as is done for most face-to-face consults.

Congratulations to Doctors Alvin Kong, Megan Glenister, Robert Rametta & Karen Du

Congratulations to Dr Alvin Kong, Dr Megan Glenister, Dr Robert Rametta & Dr Karen Du (not pictured), who were recently awarded Fellowship to the Royal Australian College of GPs. This represents 10-14 years of training and hard slog. Alvin, Megan, Rob & Karen are key members of the Blackburn Clinic team and we are extremely proud of them on receiving this well-deserved recognition.

Carson Suite patient survey feedback

Blackburn Clinic Carson Suite surveyed 126 patients using a Practice Accreditation and Improvement Survey (PAIS). The PAIS is a well-established patient survey widely used by general practices across Australia to gather valuable feedback from patients, which informs meaningful quality improvement within the organisation.

98% of all patient rating about the Carson Suite were ‘good, very good or excellent’. There were 28 areas assessed by the survey and the results demonstrate that there are only two areas where we fell slightly below the benchmarked mean score and therefore, we should target for improvement. These are:

  • providing information to patients about fees
  • helping patients see the doctor of their choice.

In response to your feedback, we undertake to expand the amount of information on our websites regarding fees (there is a page on each website labelled FEES) and aim to do this by the end of June 2022. We also plan to install an information screen in the waiting room at the Carson Suite and will ensure fee information is included there. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has introduced many new item numbers with little warning and little opportunity for us to educate ourselves or our patients. These items were at times mandated by the government to be bulk-billed, sometimes only when our region was classified by the federal government as a Covid Hotspot, and sometimes only when the patient had been seen face-to-face at our clinic within the previous 12 months. In some cases patients were not eligible for telehealth consult item numbers at all and patients were therefore not eligible for any Medicare rebate. These item numbers and rules continue to evolve and our outside our control. Doctors and staff have at times struggled to keep up with the speed of these changes (as have all general practices across Australia) and this has no doubt led to some confusion regarding fees among our patients. Remember the days when you were mainly billed ‘standard’ or ‘long’ consults? These days doctors work through a labyrinth of eligibility criteria and rules before arriving at the correct item number to bill. Often these item numbers are dependent on medical conditions (for example, the patient has a ‘recent’ diagnosis of Covid-19 confirmed by RAT or PCR testing, or has a specific chronic condition) which means that only the GP can determine the relevant item number to bill AFTER providing the service. These situations make it difficult for the reception team to predict the billing and therefore, to inform the patient about the probable costs when the appointment is booked. We empathise with patients and understand that uncertainty around fees can be stressful for patients. Patients are encouraged to discuss any financial difficulties with their GP.

As one survey respondent wrote, “the problem with having a great doctor is that they are busy and getting an appointment can be difficult”. Seeing the doctor of your choice can be difficult when that doctor is very popular, very busy, and perhaps does not work full-time. This problem was also identified in 2019 when Blackburn Clinic and Blackburn Specialist Centre patients were surveyed. We continue to train staff to offer appointments with the usual GP as the first option, as well as the option of seeing a different doctor sooner if the wait for the usual doctor is not ideal. Back in 2019 we recommended that every patient choose a “back-up doctor” from the quality group of GPs available here:  “that way you can get to know a second doctor, so that when your first choice isn’t available you can still see someone familiar. In an ideal world we’d love to always have your favourite GP available, but until cloning becomes commonplace we just can’t achieve this. The doctors don’t mind sharing!”. This advice is still good. With 24 doctors across three sites, every patient should be able to find a “back-up doctor” for those times when their favourite is booked out or not available.

Other improvements suggested by survey respondents included:

  • the need for more comfortable chairs in the waiting room –  We will acquire some higher chairs with arms (easier for less mobile patients to get up from) and some with greater cushioning.
  • the need for decorations in the waiting room –  This was already underway – our “foliage” feature was installed on 10th June and we are awaiting delivery of some pictures for the walls.

Furthermore, although this feedback wasn’t prominent in the surveys, we acknowledge that our telephone system needs improvement. As flu vaccinations and covid vaccinations have needed to be booked via telephone, this has massively increased the number of calls we receive. We hope to add a feature advising what number you are in the queue and to implement other changes that will reduce the number of incoming phone calls. In the meantime, our staff are doing the very best that they can and we appreciate your patience.

We thank the patients who completed surveys for the Carson Suite and are overjoyed that the vast majority of feedback showed that our efforts to provide professional and caring service are being recognised.

Our mission: Providing exceptional healthcare to our community.