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‘I have more time to make house calls’ 

September 2022 ● 5 minutes reading time

Interview with: GP Payam Vatankhah and senior physician assistant Ilaria Zanaga of GP practice Westertoren

Personnel shortages and increasingly complex demands for care. Many GPs are overwhelmed and in serious need of solutions. Digital tools, such as the Quin platform, can offer support. GP Payam Vatankhah and senior physician assistant Ilaria Zanaga of GP practice Westertoren already work with the platform and share their experiences: ‘There’s more space for complex care and personal attention.’

On 1 July, the Malieveld in The Hague was filled with concerned GPs and other primary care professionals to draw attention to the high pressure on GP care. What are you struggling with?

Payam: ‘Our workload has only increased in recent years. More and more tasks are falling under the primary care umbrella, and the COVID pandemic has made things even worse. The spirit of the times has also changed. Patients have ever-higher expectations of GP care. The evening, night and weekend shifts at the urgent treatment centres (UTCs) also place a heavy burden on our shoulders. Of course, GPs should be available for patients in case of emergencies outside office hours, but something’s not working right when someone can come to a UTC for an ingrown toenail at the weekend. The pressure is increasing, and we can only do so much as human beings.’

Do you see colleagues quitting the profession because of the high work pressure?

Payam: ‘In fact, I’ve considered it myself. Imagine that within the timeframe of an hour you can be dealing with a patient with a broken ankle, an octogenarian with acute heart failure and someone who has been waiting for months for a place in a mental health care facility and is now suicidal. Meanwhile, the post is piling up with requests from insurers and hospitals. I wanted a workplace where I would have more time for my patients and could work with less stress. Then Quin came along with its digital healthcare platform. Quin’s philosophy about greater self-direction for the patient and less workload for healthcare professionals immediately appealed to me. I didn’t want to stop working as a GP, but I did want GP care to be organised more intelligently. Actually, the digitalisation of healthcare was long overdue.’

You are now working with Quin. How is that going?

Ilaria: ‘Quin develops their tools in our practice together with our team. We really like it; we notice that our feedback is listened to and that there’s a thorough evaluation before further development takes place. The doctors’ assistants are also pleased that their feedback is so appreciated. We use the app every day, and it’s nice to see that Quin uses our experiences to make it better. I find it both exciting and fantastic to be part of this process. The whole world is using digital tools, from banks to hairdressers. How can we be left behind?’

What do you think of the platform? Does it help to streamline care?

Payam: ‘Certainly. Thanks to the symptom checker, patients are often able to deal with low-complexity care questions themselves. That’s a win-win situation, both for us and for our patients. Patients don’t have to call the practice or come in for a consultation. Many of my patients appreciate the video-calling option. They don’t have to take a few hours off work but can instead discuss their symptoms in a meeting room at their office and then go back to work immediately afterwards. They can also use the app to schedule appointments and request repeat prescriptions. That saves us a lot of red tape, leaving more time for complex care and personal attention for our patients.’

Ilaria: ‘For the doctor’s assistants, it’s nice that patients call the practice less often because they can arrange a lot themselves via the Quin app. For example, they can send us a message using direct messaging, a kind of chat function, and add photos of dermatological abnormalities, for example. The assistant reads the message, consults with the GP if necessary and then gives self-care advice or schedules an appointment. We communicate much faster with our patients since we’ve started using direct messaging. The communication lines are shorter than with e-consultations via email, and the communication is more personal. Some colleagues have had to get used to it. They’ve been working in a certain way for years, and now they have to make a switch. That takes time, but we are helping each other get used to the app, and we all see that the new functionalities, such as direct messaging, work better than our old methods. So, I see a lot of potential for the future, also when it comes to reducing work pressure.’

When did you notice that the platform created more space for personal care?

Payam: ‘Our patient population is young, but we also have a handful of elderly people with complex pathologies. Before, there wasn’t always enough space in the schedule to give these people the attention they deserve, but this has improved. One of my patients is a 98-year-old woman who was admitted to hospital after a brain haemorrhage. After she was discharged, I went to visit her because now there was time for that. She really appreciated that. She had been through a tough experience, and as a GP, you want to be there for her. And because Quin’s digital solutions have freed me up, that’s possible. More time, more attention and more personal care. That’s exactly why I became a GP.’