Specialist service delivered at one-stop shop
Unique clinic helps improve the physical health of people with severe mental illness
Jane Hogan’s health is under the spotlight.
“A group of specialists check me out and then they go away and analyse all the data. They tell me what they’ve found and come up with a plan. They really do take care of me,” she said.
Jane, 50, attends a one-stop-shop clinic at Sydney Local Health District that provides care for the physical health needs of people with severe mental illness.
The clinics are run by the Collaborative Centre for Cardiometabolic Health in Psychosis, also known as ccCHiP.
“Research shows preventable physical health conditions - like heart disease - are common in people living with a mental illness,” Professor Tim Lambert, the Director and architect of ccCHiP, said.
They also have a lower life expectancy than the rest of the population and it’s this disparity that Professor Lambert and his colleagues are working to change.
“People living with severe and enduring mental illness are an at-risk population. A national report reveals that they’re dying up to 23 years earlier than others and chronic health problems are mainly responsible,” Professor Lambert said.
At ccCHiP clinics, patients see seven specialists - a psychiatrist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, dentist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and a nurse - in one spot. The free service is available for those living in the community within the District.
“What our multi-disciplinary team does is unique. As far as we know, no one else delivers a similar service. It’s a true one-stop-shop.
“Our patients have a series of appointments with health practitioners. Now, ordinarily that may take a year. Here, it all gets done in one afternoon,” Professor Lambert said.
The specialists assess and manage the patient’s cardio-metabolic health - checking, for example, their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight.
They then devise a comprehensive treatment plan which is shared with other experts involved in their care.
Jane, who was diagnosed with a mental health disorder in her early 20s, has acted on the advice of the clinic’s dietitian and exercise physiologist to improve her physical health.
“I’ve lost 14 kilograms over the past three months.
“The dietitian has helped me change my diet so it now includes more vegetables and salad. And, I now aim to have smaller portions of food.
“And, I’ve started doing more exercise. I walk near where I live in Redfern,” Jane said.
The gradual changes she’s making help to lower her cardio-metabolic risk factors. She’ll return to ccCHiP for a follow-up appointment so her progress can be monitored.
One of the specialists on ccCHiP’s team, psychiatrist Dr Kathy Smith, aims to motivate patients, like Jane, to make healthy lifestyle changes.
“I try to help them find the lever... the motivation that they need. It can be especially hard when you have a severe mental illness because the symptoms can impact on the ability to make change.
“It can feel insurmountable. But, when someone is able to make substantial changes, it makes a significant difference to their own health. And, it gives me a real cause for optimism,” Dr Smith said.
Dr Smith is flying to Spain shortly to showcase the clinic’s model of patient care at the International Conference on Integrated Care.
“Our multi-disciplinary model may help others in different fields. I’m keen to learn about other integrated care models too. And to see the approach others may take,” she said.
For more information about ccCHiP, please see http://ccchip.clinic/