Practices in Focus
Elmore Medical Practice
Elmore is a small Victorian town located 46km from Bendigo. Its population of 700 along with 5000 members of the surrounding districts, all rely on the medical assistance of Elmore Medical Practice.
The success of the evolving high quality care and service delivery demonstrated by Elmore Medical Practice, has led to Monash University partnering with the Elmore Medical Practice team to conduct the Elmore Longitudinal Study, a research project investigating how small rural primary health care services sustain themselves in a constantly changing health care system environment.
Elmore, as a community, has experienced a long history of inconsistent health care, with the closure of its only hospital in 1994 resulting in a doctorless community for four years. Fortunately, in 1998 Dr Adel Asaid, opened a solo general practice, which has now transformed into the award winning Elmore Medical Practice. 2005 saw the formation of Elmore Primary Health Service (EPHS), a public-private partnership between Elmore Medical Practice’s private GPs and Bendigo Community Health Service. This partnership has allowed for the provision of medical, nursing, allied health and dental services from a single location to both Elmore and the 5,000 residents living in surrounding communities.
The practice is supported by the enormous efforts of their caring team led by Practice Manager and Elmore local, Kathy Tuohey. Kathy’s tremendous work has resulted in a number of grants, all contributing to the organisation’s success. Kathy was also responsible for recruiting both Dr Patrick Nzegwu and Dr Juliana Quay, who play a crucial role in the EPHS. Dr Nzegwu has brought his vast experience and love for teaching and mentoring, from Nigeria, to the community of Elmore, providing a solid foundation for the future of health care in the region. Dr Quay specialises in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, offering crucial support to the women of rural Victoria. The combined knowledge and passion supplied by the entire team at the EPHS is inspiring to witness and the result is innovative leadership and community support.
The success of the evolving high quality care and service delivery demonstrated by EPHS, has led to Monash University partnering with the EPHS team to conduct the Elmore Longitudinal Study, a research project investigating how small rural primary health care services sustain themselves in a constantly changing health care system environment.
The primary aim of the study was to better understand how research activity contributes, both directly and indirectly, towards improving health service performance, capacity building of workforce, and the health of the community.
To support the project commencement the EPHS staff had the very hands-on task of directly engaging in data collection, extraction and patient surveys, which were provided to the team at Monash Rural Health. This research was conducted from 2008 to 2013 and consisted of both quantitative and qualitative data. These research methods contributed to the provision of detailed insight into the health care service. The results showed multiple positive benefits to the health service of Elmore over the course of the study; these included:
- Direct financial growth of $500,000 as a result of improved electronic data entry and record keeping.
- The research data also assisted in acquiring accreditation and strategic planning to further ensure quality improvement measures.
- Promotional leverage and increased visibility of the EPHS through engagement with an academic partner. Being branded alongside Monash University gave the EPHS greater credibility and trust amongst its patients and wider community.
- Use of research findings to help the EPHS expand in a ‘networked’ model service. The ‘networked’ practice model is an example of the interconnectedness of Elmore’s health services and surrounding medical and community health services. Recruiting of new staff members, notably doctors, was simplified through evidence of research involvement.
- Interpretation of the gathered research provided the general practice team with a better understanding of their own practice and potential improvements leading to great confidence and professional satisfaction.
Evidence indicated over the length of the study that there was a greater appreciation of contributing to research as a crucial part of the working practice environment rather than a tedious burden.
Patients and the extended community gained greater confidence in the quality of the services they received as they saw positive impacts highlighted across local media, practice newsletters and the EPHS website. Research and accreditation also supported Elmore to be seen as an innovative practice thanks to their involvement in the research study and close association with Monash University.
By the end of the study, it became evident that if a practice is committed to a longitudal study for an extended time period, the benefits are extremely rewarding to both the practice and the community. The benefits of undertaking detailed surveys and gathering insight from patient feedback, has shown to last beyond the research timeframe, further supporting positive impacts resulting from the study.
Since the EPHS has completed the study, Elmore General Practice and their staff have been recognised for a number of awards, both as a practice and in recognition of its individual dedicated team members. Kathy Touhey, Practice Manager, received the Rural Practice Manager of the Year title at the Victorian Rural Health Awards 2013 and Dr Adel Asaid received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2015 as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service to medicine as a general practitioner, and to the community of Bendigo. Elmore Primary Health Service was awarded the Rural General Practice Award at the 2015 Victorian Rural Health Awards.
AGPAL would like to congratulate the team at EPHS for their dedication to industry research, commitment to quality improvement and provision of high quality community care. Engaging in such studies supports growth and knowledge sharing across the health care sector, allowing for real-life learnings and greater insight into the challenges and positive impacts of working in rural general practice.