New GP–hospital partnership aims to improve specialist access

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

6/12/2021 3:19:18 PM

The initiative will see patients given direct, on-site access to non-GP specialists, making handover and aftercare more efficient.

Two men smiling and shaking hands.
Jupiter Health co-founder Dr Michael Gendy (L) and Mount Hospital’s General Manager Reza Barzegari (R) have welcomed the partnership that aims to make access to care more efficient. (Image: Supplied)

From the moment a GP refers a patient for care from a non-GP specialist, it can take months to get an appointment, with wait times significantly longer outside of major cities.
In Western Australia, depending on the ailment, it can take up to nine months to get a foot in the door.
But a new GP-hospital partnership is looking to cut wait times, and overcome barriers to access.
In what is being hailed as a health industry first, Western Australian GP group Jupiter Health and Medical Services has teamed up with Mount Hospital to give patients direct, on-site access to non-GP specialists.
Under the new agreement, specialists and surgeons from across eight disciplines, including orthopaedics, cardiology, bariatrics and vascular, will consult from five of Jupiter Health’s locations, including Perth CBD, Harvest Lakes and Madeley, as well as Alkimos and Singleton.
Patients can then choose to have any procedures required performed at Mount Hospital.
Jupiter Health co-founder and Health Director, GP Dr Michael Gendy, told newsGP the partnership has been in the works for almost a year now, and is all about ensuring the best service for patients.
‘The main part was cutting all the red tape and admin,’ he said.
‘So the GPs will be able to refer, and then look after the patient directly.’
Dr Gendy said there are some instances where patients are referred to a non-GP specialist, only to discover after months of waiting for an appointment that their case is inoperable, and the best course of action is a management plan organised in conjunction with their GP.
‘So we’re trying to minimise waiting time for the pre-op decision, with better communication between the GP, the surgeon and the hospital,’ he said.
Reza Barzegari, who is the General Manager at Mount Hospital, says he envisages the process will be ‘highly collaborative’, with the GPs set to have access to the specialist roster at their clinic.
‘Not only will the GPs’ access to specialists be enhanced, this will also allow them the opportunity to manage patient bookings to ensure that those who need to consult with a specialist can be booked in to do so during their GP visit,’ he told newsGP.
‘Patients can also be booked for future appointments at the same location, or at a sister location close to [a] patient’s home.’
By ensuring access to care is both convenient and efficient, Mr Barzegari believes it will have a flow on effect for clinicians, who will be able to offer patients a ‘more holistic episode of care’. 
‘For our GPs, not only will they be able to offer [a] better care journey for patients, they will also be able to have better access to specialists in person or on [the] phone, and build better collaborative partnerships in the care of their patients,’ he said.
While many healthcare workers have been focused on the pandemic, Australia’s ageing population means chronic disease is simultaneously on the rise, making the work being undertaken by general practice increasingly complex.
Dr Gendy views the partnership as a way of assisting this transition, and supporting doctors in delivering continuity of care.
‘It’s all about time management,’ he said.
‘The older people get, the more chronic disease you get, the more possible intervention is needed to be done. And so the easier and quicker the access to the specialist, the better the aftercare.
‘We know from experience that with after-care the sooner you start with good handover, the better the outcome – and that’s the plan.’
Meanwhile, Dr Gendy also sees the model as a possible solution to the growing disparity in access to care between metro and regional parts of the country.
With two of Jupiter Health’s practices in regional areas included in the partnership, he believes it will improve inequities.
‘We have a few practices in regional areas and it’s always difficult to access a specialist,’ he said.
‘So, once we have the specialists in our rooms … we will be able to look after our regional patients in the same way and with the same quality as we do in metro and outer metro practices.’
While the model is only being trialled at select practices, both Dr Gendy and Mr Barzegari are in agreement that if it proves successful that it has potential to be applied elsewhere – including real benefits for the public system.
‘We always emphasise the importance of general practice, and we feel that that there is a lack of communication between specialists and general practice – both privately and publicly,’ Dr Gendy said.
‘It’s easier to trial this through the private system than, of course, going through all the red tape to do it through the public system.
‘But once we do the trial and find it has worked well, that would be an amazing example to be taken to the rest of Australia.’
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