“In the past it was impossible to find time to make patient visits at nursing homes,” says Dr Margaret Myslek, a family physician in Oliver. “Afternoons ran too late. Mornings were too busy. As a result, they rarely happened. And I felt helpless.”

All that changed last year when Myslek adopted a new office practice, which put rapid access appointment blocks into her calendar 2 to 3 days per week. Patients with simple issues that can be solved in 5 minutes are now routinely booked into these spots.

Myslek had tried rapid access before, but says it only became successful with proper staff training, followed by patient training. “When patients are prepped to know this is a short appointment, they understand and are delighted we can slip them in.”

Patients at Oliver’s two residential care homes are equally delighted. By making her office more efficient, Myslek has been able to regularly schedule a Friday morning block every 2 weeks to visit patients at McKinney Place and Sunnybank Retirement Centre.

“These regular visits have made such a huge difference,” says Michelle Larose, LPN at McKinney Place. “Residents worry a great deal and are anxious if they don’t know when the doctor is coming. It’s wonderful now. The patient feels validated.”

Not only are the patients happier, but it has made care at the facilities much more efficient, and allowed for continuity of care. “We can help patients prioritize lists of what they’d like to talk to the doctor about ahead of time, which is much more efficient.”

Facilities also have documentation ready, and have the right staff available. “If we know they’re coming, we can make sure patients are up, awake and their family can be there too,” explains Alexander Brockholm, assistant manager at McKinney Place. Both facilities noted that there is less
remote filling of prescriptions, and by taking care of small issues on site, larger ones can be avoided.

Communication is key. McKinney Place keeps a communications notebook where patient notes are left for physicians. “But, the missing piece that made this ineffective was knowing when the physicians would come,” says Brockholm.

To aid in communication, Dr Myslek’s office makes a reminder phone call the day before she visits a care home.

These visits have not added any extra time to her work schedule. “The biggest win for me is that I can do more by being more efficient, and I’m less tired at the end of the week,” says Myslek. “I’m thrilled.”

Some residents at Sunnybank now come down to the office on Friday mornings, not for an appointment but just to say hello to Dr Myslek. “It’s therapeutic for them to know she’s there at a regular time, and they will be cared for if they need it,” explains Penny Spink, care coordinator at the facility.

“Dr Myslek comes for the morning,but even if a physician could come for ½ hour every other week of dedicated time, it would be great. It’s so much more efficient,” says Brockholm. “This system works, and we are all delighted.”

Click here to learn more about the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice.