Inala Primary Care innovates with whole of practice training in Shared Medical Appointments

On Saturday 8 May 2021, Inala Primary Care charitable general practice in Brisbane’s west invited ASLM to provide face-to-face professional development for their team so that they could begin delivering Shared Medical Appointments (SMAs) in practice.

Inala is a multicultural community with a complex clientele made up of many ethnicities, cultural groups and the lowest socio-economic status (SES) suburb in Queensland. The health issues are complex and visits to the health service are dominated by lifestyle and, in many cases, trauma-related chronic illness.

An amazing group of dedicated clinicians, including 10 General Practitioners, 5 Practice Nurses, Clinical Director, Practice Support Officer and CEO, were immersed in a day of Shared Medical Appointment orientation and facilitation training presented by A/Prof John Stevens (ASLM Board Member) and Stephen Penman (ASLM Executive Director), making Inala Primary Care the largest whole of practice training as a team ASLM has delivered to date.

A/Prof John Stevens said, “The research is clear and abundant showing that SMAs provide the patient with more real time with their health care provider, peer support from other patients and answers to questions they often forget or are too inhibited to talk about. In the surveys we have undertaken, 98% of patients say they feel safer and more supported in a SMA than in a one-on-one consultation when it comes to managing their chronic illness.”

The group was frustrated with the lack of impact they felt they were making with particular chronic diseases issues in their community. They were keen to explore a new model of care that puts the patient at the centre of care, with the added benefit of peer support and the opportunity to improve cultural safety and access for their clientele.

Inala Primary Care CEO Tracey Johnson said, “Shared Medical Appointments are a validated way of delivering care to patients in a group setting. Not to be confused with group education, patients participate in a series of 1-1 consultations in the company of 10-12 of their peers. Learning from each other and the patterns they absorb listening to the doctor, patients come out of their shell and volunteer information which brings lived experience into every consultation.”

Through the day, the Inala Primary Care clinicians learned the protocol for delivering Shared Medical Appointments, and explored some of the intricacies – including a role play session in which the roles of the practitioner and the facilitator became clearer as a result of the group dynamics involved – and discussed how it could be applied in their service to help make the patient and provider experience more fulfilling.

Stevens added, “Providers, mostly GPs, say they enjoy SMAs because they learn more about their patients, they are efficient, they don’t have to repeat the same messages again and again as they do in one-on-one consultations… and more time allows them to deliver more complex and effective knowledge and behavioural change skills to their patients. In fact, many GPs that we work with tell us that SMAs have become the most enjoyable part of their practice.”

This was the first face-to-face training day that has been delivered by ALSM since COVID restrictions were introduced in 2020. It was a highly engaging and enjoyable day of learning and practising the skills of SMA delivery and facilitation.

The issues raised by the Inala group about their clientele further underscore the importance of Lifestyle Medicine and finding ways to better engage patients in prevention and self-management of lifestyle-related illness. Shared Medical Appointments provide an effective and efficient process for clinicians to engage their patients in Lifestyle Medicine.

The day finished with the Inala clinicians agreeing to develop a plan of action, and they have since scheduled their first in-practice SMAs to commence next week. They are also developing a plan to integrate SMAs as a core component of their work across a number of disease states and patient groups.

ASLM looks forward to continuing to support Inala clinicians and clientele in engaging in Lifestyle Medicine into the future!

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Interested in learning more about SMAs?

Watch this introductory webinar designed to answer common questions regarding Shared Medical Appointments, including what they are, the existing research, and derivatives of the SMA concept including virtual SMAs.

Interested in conducting SMAs?

Register for this online workshop to learn how to conduct SMAs, whether as the doctor or the facilitator, and complete the assessment to receive an ASLM Certified SMA Facilitator certificate for CPD purposes.