Our vision was to provide really good access and a really good standard of care for our patients.
Dr. Holly Zwicker
Good access doesn’t happen by accident.
When Dr. Holly Zwicker and her business partner Dr. Shauna Herman were setting up their Tantallon-based medical practice in late 2009, they had a clear idea of how they wanted to provide care.
“Our vision was to provide community care, and to provide really good access and a really good standard of care for our patients,” says Dr. Zwicker.
Seven years later, through a careful combination of hard work, collaborative care and technology, that vision has been realized. Now, Drs. Zwicker and Herman work with four other physicians, a family practice nurse and several administrative staff to provide comprehensive medical care for 10,000 patients.
“We try to see our patients as much as possible,” says Dr. Zwicker. “Sometimes that means seeing patients on a squeeze-in basis; or they might be scheduled for the early morning slots that we reserve for same-day or next-day appointments. After hours we do house calls to see patients who can’t get in to the office, and we also do palliative care home visits and nursing home visits.”
Having a family practice nurse on staff has also made a huge difference, says Dr. Zwicker.
“Having her on hand to provide nursing care and take care of the task-oriented parts of patient care – things like immunizations and Pap tests – allows me to spend more time with my complex patients,” says Dr. Zwicker.
Using technology – particularly adopting an EMR and an online booking system – is another way that Dr. Zwicker and her partners have been able to improve access.
Using an EMR has helped Dr. Zwicker and her staff identify patient populations with specific health needs, and design clinics to serve those needs. These clinics include well-senior, well-baby and well-women clinics, as well as a Pap test recall program. “Every few years we do a record search for patients who were due for a Pap test but didn’t get one. We then invite those patients to a Pap test clinic,” says Dr. Zwicker.
“There’s something powerful about being contacted by your physician,” says Dr. Zwicker. “When we say we care about your health, suddenly it makes people care about their own health more.”
Once they were using an EMR, it was a small step to online booking.
“Our patients love being able to book online. And it has done wonders for improving accessibility.”
Next up, Dr. Zwicker and her colleagues plan to begin using MyHealthNS – the secure web portal that allows physicians and patients to view test results online and will soon allow them to communicate via email.
“This is the way we communicate in all other spheres in our life, so it’s great that it’s finally becoming an option for us in medicine,” says Dr. Zwicker.
Even as primary care continues to evolve in Nova Scotia, Dr. Zwicker and her colleagues are guided by their vision – good care with good access – and they show no signs of slowing down.