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Rethinking the approach to medical care

Rethinking the approach to medical care
The new Health Hub Project centre in Palmerston North will offer 14 consultation rooms.

A group of Palmerston North doctors is aiming to change the current health model in a creative way they say will benefit both patients and those working in the medical profession. Health Hub Project now encompasses four centres in the city, the most recent of which opened in March.

The model is different in that patients can access a range of complementary health professionals in each facility including medical doctors, mental health professionals, social workers and, in the newest centre, even a pharmacist.

Health Hub Project co-founder David Hill says the approach is less about medicine and more about the social determinants of health – how people become sick and how they can stay well.

“It’s an holistic approach to patient health. It’s about providing a range of wraparound services to patients,” says David, who founded Health Hub Project with Dr Pat Nolan, a retired professor of education and Andrew Nolan who brings a commercial background.

A medical GP, David, who has been working in the health industry for 40 years, says that the Health Hub Project was born from frustration working as a co-clinical director for the emergency department at Palmerston North Hospital.

“We were always the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. There was disconnect as we couldn’t assist the patient in all of the aspects that they might require, physical and mental,” he explains. Health Hub Project is a mixed not-for-profi t/profi t model that David believes is unique.

The eventual aim is for 51% of the company to be owned by the charitable trust. When Health Hub Project started operating in 2015 it had 3500 patients on its books. By merging with two other practices this figure is now closer to 9000.

There was disconnect as we couldn’t assist the patient in all of the aspects that they might require, physical and mental,Consultation charges are comparable to other GP clinics, but the approach is innovative, says David.

For example rather than being greeted by a receptionist, a Health Hub Project patient is instead greeted by a host and taken to a room and is then visited by a medical professional. The new centre will offer 14 consultation rooms while also acting as a base for staff to go out into the community.

David says the various medical professionals and wraparound services will endeavour to work together to provide the best result and care for the client taking a multidisciplinary approach.

The aim is to develop the model then spread further afield. He says that anecdotal feedback is that patients really like the personal approach.

Feedback has been similarly positive from medical professionals and he hopes the new working environment will encourage the next generation of healthcare workers that are direly needed.

The Health Hub Project also takes a non-hierarchical organisational approach meaning everybody is free to suggest and make changes.

“For example it’s not good for a doctor to be seeing patients from the same room for eight hours a day. The new generation of doctors doesn’t want to work this way.

“With more than 50% of current doctors in the Manawatu due to retire shortly we really need to provide a new model to encourage people into the industry. It’s being creative about how we do things for the benefit of both the medical profession and patients.”

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