Inala shines light on healthcare reform with trailblazing, award-winning medical practice

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Inala, the southwest Brisbane suburb that recently made headlines as a potential location for SBS’s second series of the controversial Struggle Street, is in the spotlight again, but this time for a trailblazing medical practice that is changing the way patients are cared for.

Inala Primary Care (IPC) has been operating in the community for nine years, working hard to improve the health of local people. In Inala, people suffer from chronic illness and mental health issues at a vastly higher rate and younger age than most Australians, which is why IPC’s efforts to reduce costs for the health system by pioneering new patient care models and ground-breaking use of technology is so important.

For a local not-for-profit practice, IPC has notched up some seriously impressive accomplishments. Two weeks ago it won national General Practice of the Year from Australian General Practice Accreditation Limited (AGPAL). The practice has big ambitions to influence the healthcare reform agenda at a national level, and to help solve common Australian health problems, including an aging population through its experience in Inala.

IPC has pioneered and piloted a number of new primary care models. Its work in treating complex diabetes has resulted in patients from 23 postcodes having faster access to care, a 50 per cent reduction in costs compared to the equivalent hospital care, and a 75 per cent reduction in admissions.

Its world-first chronic kidney disease program ‘Keeping Kidneys’ can slow the disease by making care available earlier for the patient and reducing waiting times at every point of the system. Appointments cost Queensland Health around $80 less than the equivalent hospital service. The program is being considered for adoption in Brisbane’s north and far north Queensland.

Despite these impressive medical achievements, IPC primarily won the top gong – AGPAL General Practice of the Year – for its innovative technology systems.

It was the first general practice in Australia to upload a patient record to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR – now known as My Health Record) and uses iPads for in-clinic and in-home visits.

IPC has also built a world-leading intranet using software donated by Atlassian, Australia’s tech darling which listed on New York’s Nasdaq for a historic $US5.8 billion at the end of last year.

CEO Tracey Johnson said as a practice that challenged its team to continually improve patient care and achieve efficiencies, it was critical to have a cutting edge technology and a centralised system.

“This technology has transformed the culture at Inala Primary Care to a tech savvy, dynamic workplace, rarely seen in the sector,” Ms Johnson said.

“We have taken hundreds if not thousands of word documents, checklists, templates, manuals and more into a digital, intranet-based practice manual that links policies and procedures, stores all records and links to other databases.

“The dashboard we see on our computers or iPads can show patient waiting times and nurse and doctor availability, it automates clinical approvals, allows us to search a virtual medical library, and makes everyone accountable.

“Our systems ensure our healthcare professionals have access to the latest evidence, which results in the best patient care as well as reducing clinician time and stress, a key factor when serving such a complex group of patients.

“Everyone at Inala Primary Care is there because we want to improve lives and be leading professionals. We are proud to have been recognised as the national General Practice of the Year as a result of our innovations.

“We are now looking into commercialising our software and systems so the wider medical community can benefit. This will raise revenue to invest in more patient research, innovation in delivery models and to subsidise care for patients whose needs exceed Medicare’s six-minute commercial medicine model.”

IPC will not be resting on its laurels, the company has big ambitions to influence patient care models, policy and funding on a national level. It will continue to invest in research that solves common healthcare problems to improve the lives of Australians, especially those in more disadvantaged areas, and plans to open more medical centres, starting with another practice in Brisbane.

“It was key to get the technology right before we start to expand and we have no intention of stopping here,” Ms Johnson said.

“We want to have a positive impact on the health of entire populations and influence the career direction of hundreds of clinicians.”