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Medical concierge lends patients and older people a helping hand

Sydney,The Medical Concierge,The Home Care Team,nu
Photo: Marg Sacre and Susan Turner-Kapsanis
Helping patients is no new feat for Marg Sacre.

But instead of nursing them back to good health, the retired nurse with more than 40 years’ experience is helping patients, and older people living in the community, to navigate the nation’s complex health care system.

Ms Sacre has joined forces with former Wall Street lawyer Susan Turner-Kapsanis to launch an Australian-first medical concierge service.

The Medical Concierge will select and organise specialist doctors and treatment programs, transport patients to appointments, attend specialist appointments, arrange flights, accommodation and meals, source home nursing, and assist patients with benefits from their private health insurers and Medicare.

The Sydney-based business also has an arm called The Home Care Team that provides health assessments for older people living in the community and links them into essential services.
The Home Care Team will work to assist older people to remain living in their homes through the provision of health assessments, early intervention and preventative care.

“We just keep finding there are so many people who are neglecting their health or old people at home, diabetics for instance - who are losing their toes because they haven’t seen a podiatrist and no one has organised it for them,” Ms Sacre said.

“We are now planning to do aged care assessments for GPs as well in people’s homes because at 75 everybody can have a health assessment, and there’s lots of services out there to help them, it’s just accessing them is often complicated.”

Ms Sacre is a former endoscopy nurse unit manager at St Vincent’s Clinic and has also responded to international emergencies as a volunteer with the Australian Red Cross, including Aceh in the aftermath of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

But even Ms Sacre, a former director of the education branch of the Gastroenterological Nurses College of Australia (GENCA), found the health care system challenging when her husband, Howard, was diagnosed and treated for cancer.

“I took three months off work to look after him, and he was going to surgery and radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and the bills kept coming and the claiming was a nightmare,” she said.

“Just getting to appointments and working out who I should go to - was this the best person to deal with that?

“I remember thinking one night - if I wasn’t a nurse, how would you ever do this?”

With her experience as both a care provider and a consumer in the health system, Ms Sacre found friends and family were constantly asking her for advice about doctors and health care.

When she met Ms Turner-Kapsanis, who also has personal experience and expertise in overcoming the challenges of the health system, through a mutual friend, they decided to launch the business.

With fees ranging from $250 to $4000 a month, The Medical Concierge offers services from high to low care, and also helps clients access the numerous volunteer and government services available to patients.

Launched in March, the business’ first client was the head of a large company who had recently arrived in Australia with his family, when his young child fell ill.

“Our first patient said he will always use us now,” Ms Sacre said.

“They hadn’t had particularly good medical advice and it had been going on for three weeks with several GPs.

“They were desperate - they were in a new country and didn’t know how the system worked but it was all sorted very quickly.”

The business now has a growing client base and may eventually expand beyond Sydney’s metropolitan area.

Ms Sacre said it’s rewarding to be able to give patients a helping hand.

“You can just see people go ‘phew’ when you start helping them,” she said.

“You can make something very complicated very easy for people and reassure them that it’s going to be alright.

“Just taking the stress from people makes you feel good.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords