Three Rivers calls in Turanga Health top guns!

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Three Rivers Medical is using local smoking cessation experts to phone hundreds of patients who smoke, and help them into a quit programme if they want.

Turanga Health smoking cessation kai?whina Mere Waihi and Christine Nepia have many years between them helping Turanga Health wh?nau and other referred patients quit smoking. Because of their knowledge and skill theyve been seconded by Three Rivers Medical to help out some of its patients.

Three Rivers Medical Chief Executive Ingrid Collins said we wanted the best people to help with the job.

Mere and Christine and the rest of the smoking cessation team are extremely professional and we were more than confident they could help us do it. They are very good at it. We have smoking cessation targets we want to meet but they are challenging because you have to talk to everyone who is registered at your practice, and weve got 18,500.

In April Three Rivers Medical tasked Mere and Christine with contacting 1800 patients by telephone, check if they were still smokers, and if they were, offer them brief advice on how to quit. They had until the end of June to get through the 1800 calls. They have been working out of a Three Rivers Medical office with a telephone and a computer spreadsheet. On day one they made 128 calls in four hours! Mere says each call starts something like this: Kia ora. My name is Mere and I am ringing from Three Rivers Medical Centre. We are updating our records and our records show you are a smoker. Is that correct?

By the middle of May Mere and Christine had dialed 2027 numbers and talked to 754 people. They had made 91 referrals to the Turanga Health smoking cessation service. Mere and Christine have made many of the calls in evenings and weekends in an effort to connect with more people. Mere says its been a new way of working and building a rapport with the patient is key. You know what its like getting a phone call around tea time! It can be annoying. So we quickly identify who we are and why we are calling.

They aim to make a favourable impact at the start of the call using an efficient but friendly tone. If a patient says they arent considering quitting then Mere does not apply pressure. If the patient does indicate an interest they outline the options they could consider, including the Turanga Health smoking cessation programme. Its a real advantage to know the programme so well because then you can promote it. While Mere and Christine have made the majority of the phone calls they have had some help from their Turanga Health smoking cessation colleagues.

Ms Collins says Three Rivers Medical staff talked to hundreds of patients during the year about smoking but at the cut off date on 30 June the practice was going to fall short of reaching its target. We are more on track to reach it now and best of all we have just under 100 patients signed up and ready to start a smoking cessation programme which is good for them and good for their families. Ingrid says the practice will now also use the Turanga Health smoking cessation staff to train new doctors in how to give brief advice to patients who smoke.

The Three Rivers Medical/Turanga Health telephone project is going so well other general practices want Turanga Health staff to help their patients over the phone. Turanga Health Chief Executive Reweti Ropiha says the project has piqued the interest of Midlands Health Network which supports around 90 general practices with programmes and tools to improve patient health. Midlands has asked us to help out some of the patients in its general practices across the North Island and because the initial contact is made by telephone we are looking at the proposal.

Photo idea: On Friday [30 May] to mark World Smokefree Day [Saturday 31 May] Three Rivers Medical and Turanga Health are hosting a public tug-of-war competition between all the health services working out of the Three Rivers Medical building. Public watching the competition, which starts at midday outside Three Rivers on Customhouse St, have the chance to win prizes if they sign up to a smoking cessation.

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