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. Our 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 we mainly billed ‘standard’ or ‘long’ consults? These days we 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. Our doctors are a team and they 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.