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Really sick patients get help navigating health care system

7 March 2017
NEW Zealand’s healthcare system can be difficult, confusing and frightening when you’re really sick with something that can’t be easily cured. Whether it be arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, managing a long term condition can be tough, says new Three Rivers Medical nurse Rachel Ferkins who’s been employed to help.
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Rachel Ferkins helping very sick patients navigate their way through the health system

New Zealand’s health care system can feel like a maze for people with a long term condition but with a bit of guidance we’re helping connect patients with the right care and resources, and get answers to all their questions.

Dr Tom James

“For that person there are appointments at the general practice and hospital, often a long list of medications, and treatment can be at multiple locations, sometimes out of town.”

Rachel and Three Rivers Medical doctor Tom James are part of a two-year project to help people with long term conditions grapple with the health care system.

“We know the challenges and complexities of staying well and negotiating all the care can be overwhelming,” says Dr James. “Now we can offer patients a primary point of contact in the form of Rachel, to help coordinate where people need to be and what else they need to be doing to stay well. “

 Dr James says a long-term condition is an illness that cannot be cured but can usually be controlled with medicines or other treatments. Examples of long-term conditionsinclude arthritis, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, angina, heart failure, and high blood pressure (hypertension). Chronic respiratory and pulmonary disease also fall into the list.

“New Zealand’s health care system can feel like a maze for people with a long term condition but with a bit of guidance we’re helping connect patients with the right care and resources, and get answers to all their questions.”

Three Rivers Medical has about 300 patients on their books living with a long term condition that could benefit from the new service. Dr James says the patients they want to help fall into the top five percent of unwell people.

The new Three Rivers Medical service also includes pharmaceutical support so patients managing multiple medications can be helped to keep an accurate list of all their pills and dosages.

“Our aim is to help those patients coordinate their care, and ultimately prevent them from needing to go to hospital,” says Tom.

Patients invited to be part of the programme will receive an invitation letter asking them to get in touch. Rachel encourages people to ring, or talk about it with their nurse or doctor next time they visit. “We’re here to help ease the journey through the healthcare system.”