“At our Garden Park clinic, we’re always looking for ways to optimize how we work and support our patients,” says Dr Presley Moodley, one of the Abbotsford practice’s four family doctors, who are supported by a team of eight part- and full-time medical office assistants (MOAs). “As part of the Abbotsford Division of Family Practice’s A GP for Me steering committee, I learned about the Advanced Medical Office Assistant (AMOA) program at University of the Fraser Valley and thought it offered a great opportunity to benefit everyone at the clinic.”

University of the Fraser Valley developed the program to enhance practice capacity and patient experience by providing MOAs with training and tools to expand the scope of their jobs. In recognition of the value it could offer local practices, the program’s creation was fast-tracked, going from concept to operation in just nine months. Garden Park MOA Kristin Candy was one of the first to participate, taking classes evenings and weekends during the eight-month program.

“I learned so much,” says Kristin. “It was also surprisingly manageable because the courses are developed for people who are working.” One of the program’s projects resulted in Kristin developing a comprehensive office manual that includes protocols and policies, as well tools like supply lists, billing information, and community resources.

“The manual she created has become invaluable for us,” says Dr Moodley. “It helped the office become more organized, ensures things are done consistently, and is a terrific reference for new staff. If I’d asked her to do this at work, it would have taken many months. Just the manual alone improved our efficiency but the AMOA has done more than that. Kristin proactively suggests improvements on a regular basis. The other MOAs now go to her with questions they used to ask me or my colleagues, which saves us a lot of time.”

Based on learnings from the AMOA program, Kristin also introduced group patient visits at the clinic. By reviewing the patient panel, she identified some chronic conditions many patients live with and has organized by-invitation hour-long meetings between one of the clinic’s doctors and up to a dozen patients.

“So far, we have only done a few but they are a tremendous value-add for patients and by proactively supporting patients in managing conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure we may be reducing their need for one-on-one appointments later,” says Dr Moodley.

Kristin agrees the format works well for the right patient groups. “Patients learn from each other’s experiences and questions. They might not have thought of a question themselves but when someone else brings an issue up, everyone in the group gains knowledge.”

Thanks to the more active role Kristin was playing running the clinic, she was promoted to office manager when the position became available.

“The AMOA has been terrific for my career,” says Kristin. “It gave me more than enhanced skills and the confidence to seek out opportunities for improvements. I built relationships with MOAs in other offices and we’re still in regular contact. Every office works a little differently and it’s so valuable to be able to pick up the phone and find out how others do things. We’re still learning together, even after the program is over.” 

For doctors considering the program for their own MOAs, Dr Moodley says, “It’s important to choose someone who is the right fit for the program. Kristin was excited about embracing change and taking a leadership role. We’ve already seen many benefits. Now, we’re looking at bringing other health professionals into our practice to offer broader team-based care and I’m sure she’ll have thoughts on how to optimize that.”