“When you’re practicing medicine in a regional area like Mackay or the Whitsundays, it forces you to be more innovative than the rest because solutions just aren’t as easy to find here.”
This is the thinking behind power couple Dr John and Elizabeth McIntosh who have built a successful network of super clinics in the Mackay region, published two books titled “CEO Principles” and “Mastering Negative Impulsive Thoughts” and released a mental health app downloaded in 35 countries.
Driving innovation in a highly regulated industry such as health isn’t always straightforward. The profession is steeped in tradition and compliance and building on top of the knowledge doctors obtain during the early stages of their career can be challenging.
But super clinics can be a hotbed of innovation in the medical profession because of the way they bring allied health services under one roof. When Elizabeth or ‘Eli’ established her first Mackay GP Superclinic Group with her husband 10 years ago, they were determined to provide the community with world-class health services driven by cutting-edge technologies.
“We were the first clinic in Mackay to introduce same day booking. Every service we’ve introduced is about improving the quality of healthcare for the community,” Dr McIntosh said.
Providing psychiatry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, dietetics and dentist services, Eli and John saw an opportunity to strengthen the continuity of care across each of their healthcare providers by combining their knowledge of healthcare with digital technologies.
If a diabetic is being treated, they can quickly be referred to a Podiatrist or a Dietician within the clinic who immediately has access to an electronic copy of their health records.
Although electronic patient records are becoming more common in major hospitals, many doctors in Australia still don’t know what treatments other healthcare providers have prescribed to their patients.
“All of our specialists have access to the same patient records, giving a continuity of care across our clinics,” Dr McIntosh said.
A few years ago, Eli and John created their own smartphone app which gives patients quick access to their clinical services. Users can book appointments, know exactly how late their doctor will be and even receive health notifications in real time.
“A boy was stung by a jellyfish in the northern beaches not long ago and was brought into one of our clinics for treatment.
“We were able to send a push notification to all of our patients using the app to warn them of the stinger type and location,” Dr McIntosh said.
The experience of producing their own smartphone app for the clinics gave Eli and John the confidence to do the same for their TUFMINDS concept, a program that improves psychological resilience.
By training people how to improve their psychological resilience online, they aimed to remove some of the barriers to mental health treatment.
The duo recorded their own video content to deliver the training modules, built the new app and ran an advertising campaign to promote it, but just a few weeks before launch, John decided to release the app for free.
“It was a really difficult business decision to make, but John believed money shouldn’t be a barrier to this kind of service.
“In just over one month, we had three people contact us saying they were able to save a loved one’s life because of the life support modules,” Dr McIntosh said.
Eli and John have no formal training in app development or media. They’ve taken their Mackay medical practice global by teaching themselves new tricks using online tutorials and hiring the right talent to help bring their ideas to market.
When asked what excites her team of doctors when getting involved in their more innovative projects, Eli said community engagement wins their support every time.
“When they see the effect these technologies have on our patients, it’s no longer about their ego or their fear of giving it a try, it’s about our community,” Dr McIntosh said.
John and Eli at their Mackay GP Superclinic