For Vancouver’s Dr Paul Wong, the Practice Support Program’s learning modules provide a key opportunity to keep his medical knowledge up-to-date.
“As family doctors, we are the filter for the medical system,” says Dr Wong, who has practiced medicine for more than forty years. “Everyone comes to us first with their health concerns. It’s important to keep our knowledge relevant, not only from a scientific standpoint but also to know what’s happening in our communities and what our patients may ask about.”

Dr Wong offers examples from the Pain Management module to illustrate his point. “Fentanyl didn’t used to be an issue but it is our responsibility to know about that now. We need to learn when it’s appropriate to prescribe marijuana and how to do that. Things change so fast and PSP’s modules offer a great way to stay current with best practices.”

Another key benefit of the learning modules is the opportunity to come together with other family doctors, specialists and topic experts to share knowledge and experience. “It’s nice to know you are not alone,” says Dr Wong. “We all face similar situations and it is good to hear what has worked for others, to collaborate on how to best support our patients.”

In addition to knowledge, Dr Wong has incorporated several of the tools and resources obtained through PSP modules into his practice.

“We use the listing of community resources to refer patients to support services near them,” says Dr Wong. “I don’t have time to build that kind of list and keep it up to date, so it’s a tremendous benefit to be able to tell patients where they can get pain support, for example, or whatever it is they might need. As well, we use the flow sheets from Chronic Disease Management to help monitor patients with conditions like diabetes. And, we keep the latest guidelines for best practices care right in our EMR, so they’re easy to access.”

Dr Wong has participated in nearly all available learning modules, incorporating knowledge and tools from each one into his practice. He found them so valuable, he asked his Medical Office Assistant of 33 years, Sandi Smith, to attend some of them with him. She has participated in the Advanced Access/Office Efficiency, Chronic Disease Management and Adult Mental Health modules. The last one may have helped her save a patient’s life.

“I got a call from a patient who said she was going to commit suicide,” explains Sandi. “I asked her if she wanted to come into the office and she said okay. When she arrived, Dr Wong wasn’t available yet, so I took her into a private room and followed what I’d learned: kept eye contact and helped her calm down. I didn’t make her explain what was wrong; I just tried to make her feel better. By the time she saw Dr Wong, she was much calmer. If I hadn’t taken that PSP module, I wouldn’t have known what to do to help her.”

The patient was able to successfully recover from the episode.

PSP offers nine different learning modules. In addition to Chronic Disease Management, Pain Management, Advanced Access/Office Efficiency and Adult Mental Health, there is Child and Youth Mental Health, Musculoskeletal, End-of-Life Care, Group Medical Visits and COPD/Heart Failure.