Success story: Merging medical services for better patient outcomes

From the start, rheumatologist Dr Irwin Lim was in no doubt as to the type of practice he wanted to lead. He didn't have to look far to find others willing to support his vision.

 4.5 minutes

 

It began with a broad mind and a grand plan. It resulted in a unique arthritis and rheumatology centre that operates across three separate Sydney locations, with over 40 staff and servicing a 50,000-strong client base.

Father-of-three Dr Irwin Lim completed his rheumatology training at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in early 2004, joining Parramatta’s two-year-old The Bone and Joint Clinic shortly after.

The clinic, which had been started by another rheumatologist and exercise physiologist, involved a group of individuals working towards a team approach in the treatment of musculoskeletal disease. 

 

The growth of BJC Health

“My brother, Errol, who is conveniently a top physiotherapist, owned a successful practice in Chatswood called Help St Physiotherapy and Sports Injuries Clinic. Between 2002 and 2008 Errol steadily built up that clinic, introducing remedial massage and gym services, as well as employing additional physiotherapists.

“It made sense for the two clinics to join.” But the brothers were worried about mixing business and family.

However, in 2008 the temptation grew too great and the two clinics merged, with Errol joining as director.

Having evolved to incorporate endocrinology, psychology, geriatric medicine and dermatology to its list of services the duo felt a change of name was in order, so the clinics relaunched as BJC Health.

 

Expanding the practice

The year 2010 was a big year for the group, commencing an in-house ultrasound service and pathology collection at its Parramatta site. In May the same year, BJC Health opened its third clinic at Brookvale while a third director was invited into the fold—rheumatalogist Dr Rob Russo. Another rheumatology colleague, Dr Herman Lau, joined as director in July 2013.

Dr Lim says while expansion has always been on the cards, the group took its time to develop its offering so that everything fit with BJC Health’s vision.

“There is a key theme of patient convenience and communication. We recognised that the way forward in improving the treatment of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injury would involve a coordinated, comprehensive service that no one doctor or allied health professional could reasonably provide. So we’ve set out to recruit practitioners who, under the right working environment, will come together as a team.”

 

A world-class arthritis clinic

Technological advancements have seen the group welcome arthritis patients from all over the state, drawn to BJC Health’s unique positioning as a world-class arthritis clinic.

Dr Lim says the group has moved beyond standard consulting rooms to better assist its patients. Clients have direct access to the practitioners via email, can call between appointments and can interact with them online. 

Client files are kept on remote servers that the doctors can access at any time, and a recent upgrade has seen the group set up a system for online appointment booking. 

 

Engaging and motivating clients

Its physiotherapy team use an online exercise portal called MedBridge. Clients are able to watch video links or have handouts printed with pictures. All of which has been done, Dr Lim says, to engage, motivate and empower patients. 

“For our patients with inflammatory arthritis, our rheumatology care coordinator can email them videos detailing aspects of the condition as well as the medications to be used. There are hyperlinks to access more patient information on our website and blogs. 

“We want to enhance the conversation and empower our clients. While we are proud of what we have achieved, there is so much more we want to do.”

 

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