COVID-19 has asked a lot of us. We have had to take quick and decisive action in several key areas of the business. We have placed several projects on hold and refined our operations to prioritise safety above all else. Throughout this process of moment to moment decision-making, we have learnt a lot as a practice, and stood tall as responsible and safety-aware citizens of our medical neighbourhood.
In this update, I’ll be sharing the three things that I believe have kept us going and growing, and some thoughts around our future direction as a practice.
1. A Cohesive Team
We have discovered how closely our success as a business is linked to our cohesiveness and psychology as a team. In a world dominated by uncertainty, we have had to find new ways to offer safety, hope and inspiration to our patients and to each other. We have had candid conversations about our individual vulnerabilities, and have consistently brought our full and authentic selves to work. This openness and humanity that exists within our workplace has meant that we have all had moments of deep connection with each other and by extension, this has enhanced our capacity to connect deeply with our patients.
2. A Focus on Kindness
Gurleen and I have had conversations with our team, our patients and our community regarding what you are doing to take care of yourselves during this challenging time. It has been reassuring to see a common thread emerging of the “one thing” you do to stay grounded (your “anchor”). Overwhelmingly, you have taught us what it means to be kind to your self and to others.
In this spirit, we have adopted our own self-care habits. Personally, I took up the challenge to run 100km in the month of July, and used my morning run as my consistent daily ritual. Having dedicated the last few years to lifting weights and quick bursts of cardiovascular exercise, running was quite foreign to me, and the prospect of running 3 to 5km each day almost insurmountable. However, by taking on and successfully completing the challenge with a day to spare, I taught my mind that even the toughest mental barriers can be overcome. I have continued this healthy habit and now channel this energy into showing up in the right way each day for my team, my patients, my community and my family.
By modelling healthful behaviours within and outside of the workplace, we can all work together to build a culture where self-care and self-compassion are valued, encouraged and commonplace. We are well placed to facilitate the extension of this culture into the lives of our patients, so that they see us not only as trusted advisors, but as health role models. Indeed, it is difficult for us to counsel our patients about behaviours that we ourselves do not practice.
3. A Clear and Compelling Vision
In a world seemingly dominated by fear and uncertainty, it is not uncommon for feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to surface. Finding clarity amidst chaos is extraordinarily challenging, particularly when coupled with the grim reality that others have lost so, so much to, or through, this pandemic.
Why are we here? Why do we get up in the morning? What drives us? These are the questions that we have needed to ask constantly throughout the last few months. The antidote to burnout is a compelling vision of the future, and we would like that future to be the embodiment of our core values, our dreams and our aspirations. At its foundation, breathing life into our vision must enable us to positively and proactively impact the lives of the people we exist to serve.
Are our core values, compassion and innovation, still relevant today? I believe they are, and will explore this in a subsequent article.
Where to next?
During our first year at Rosedale, Gurleen and I invested heavily in the domain of engaged leadership. Our team, patients and community have come forward to welcome us with open arms as the new leaders of the practice.
We are proud to have built upon our credibility and brand as a business, and have established a strong online presence and digital footprint. COVID-19 has accelerated our uptake of health technology, and we are now well placed to deliver care virtually. We started our journey wanting to do away with the fax and with paper, and COVID-19 taught us that even bricks and mortar are optional. We still believe that the heart of general practice is in relationship-based, in-person care. However the unique opportunity to take care to our patients has renewed our commitment to providing “Care Outside the Box”.
In line with our vision, we have built our reputation as a world-class provider of health care, as a great place to work for our team, and as a quality training practice for our medical students from Macquarie University, Western Sydney University and University of Sydney.
We have also implemented key population health programs. We have partnered with Western Sydney Diabetes to offer Diabetes Case Conferences to our patients, and have grown our practice’s relationship with our Primary Health Networks – WentWest and Sydney North Health Network. We are in discussions with our local partners about our involvement in new and innovative programs such as HeartConnect, and expect to add even greater value to the services we are able to offer our patient population.
Importantly, our participation in these projects is grounded in our principled approach. We stand for a higher purpose – with everything we do, we aim to improve the lives of our patients, our team and our community. We lean into compassion and innovation as both our core values and our key strategic levers. However, if we are to continue to grow as a business, we need to have a clear picture of what success in these two areas look like, and define some key metrics around this.
We recognise “that the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. We stand by our desire to be the best in the world when it comes to innovation and compassion. As we gain further clarity and understanding of our shared purpose, we accept that our focus may evolve or transform. We also recognise the key area in which we are consistently outperformed by our competitors – convenience.
During the pandemic, we have been particularly conscious of our limited resources, and have leaned into our strategy of doing the best that we can for our current patients, ensuring their care is managed proactively, holistically and comprehensively. Our data so far has suggested that we have excelled in key areas such as the delivery of influenza vaccines to our most vulnerable patients.
It is very easy to brush the idea of convenience aside, and I have found myself a few times saying that we are not a “convenience” practice. However, on the flip side of convenience is access. And it is absolutely a problem when our patients are unable to access their healthcare team, particularly at a time that health care is in such great need. So increasingly we do recognise this as a problem that we need to address.
We recognise that in our efforts to provide comprehensive and personalised care to our patients we often run late. This is also unacceptable and disrespectful to our patients who we understand live very busy lives. We would like to say that we respect your time. More than this, we would like to show you that we respect your time and we would like to take very deliberate action to ensure that this is an area in which we can improved.
But we can’t improve what we don’t measure, and so during the month of August, we will be focusing our attention on “building block two” – data-driven improvement. We will set out a number of key metrics and use data to drive insights and further improvements in the way we manage our business and care for our patients. We look forward to sharing these insights with you, our valued community, in our next update.