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Our strategy to educate GPs about ME/CFS

Update: Feedback from GPCE Sydney shows important education outcomes among GPs 

Verbal feedback from Richard’s presentation about, Long COVID and ME/CFS: Diagnosis, treatment and management options, in Sydney in late May was overwhelmingly positive.

Formal, written feedback, provided to us last week by the organisers of the event, is equally as impressive. 80% of attendees reported that Dr Schloeffel’s presentation helped them to know how to educate patients in helpful management techniques, 84% said they now know how to apply evidence-based principles to diagnose ME/CFS, and avoid misdiagnosis and an impressive 88% said they can now evaluate when to consider a diagnosis of ME/CFS in Long COVID patients.  

GPs were asked to provide general comments on the session, as well as on how the education might contribute to a systems-based patient safety outcome for their practice. Provided here is a small sample of this feedback: 

  • “From now on, I will not force my patients with CFS for CBT or graded exercise therapy. Until today, I was under [the] impression, like many other doctors that CBT and graded exercise therapy is [a] key part in management but today I learnt that it can be quite detrimental to patients with this condition. Also I will keep in mind about Emerge Australia as referral pathway and to learn more about this condition.” 
  • “Be aware that these syndromes are not psychological, so pushing exercise or CBT… treating it as a psychological condition is counterproductive. (although patients and families will benefit from psychological support)” 
  • “Will take this information from this session and review our systems in the clinic” 
  • “Opened my eyes to the depth and complexity of the subject.” 
  • “The session highlighted the complex nature of ME/CFS which may be seen not only with long COVID but also almost any type of viral infection. Both diagnosis and treatment can be difficult. I may be able to explain to patients the underlying reasons for their symptoms, and will do the appropriate tests to exclude other causes. I will be supportive even in the absence of definitive treatment. Take home message? Do not use CBT or graded exercise therapy.” 
  • “Excellent session and very timely. Well-presented breakdown of symptoms, that makes sense and excellent approach to investigation and diagnosis. Will be more aware of the potential diagnosis and ask questions in this regard. Much more confident that these patients can be helped. Will be advising paced activities and have been made aware that exercise for these patients can make them worse and this needs to be carefully considered.” 
  • “[I will] provide a much more receptive approach to patient concerns and symptoms” 

This feedback demonstrates we are making inroads to educating GPs about ME/CFS. GPs are learning about the dangers or ineffectiveness of GET and CBT, how to diagnose the disease and that Emerge Australia is here to help them and their patients. Also reflected in these comments is the importance of education to build knowledge and confidence of GPs so they feel willing and able to properly engage with, and care for, their ME/CFS patients.  

When done well, such large scale, face to face education sessions can be a highly effective way to educate a large number of people at the same time. Within the context of Long COVID, such education only becomes more in demand, and we are pleased to have had such strong interest in our session.  

Emerge Australia at GPCE Sydney May 27-29 2022

Emerge Australia successfully hosted a stall and delivered one of only three plenary addresses at the General Practice Conference and Exhibition (GPCE) in Sydney, 26 – 29 May.

During the three-day conference, Emerge Australia’s conference team of Anne Wilson, Dr Richard Schloeffel, Dr Michelle Tavoletti and Dr Rochelle Lade connected with over 500 attendees, who reside in Sydney, Gold Coast and Canberra. Of particular interest to many we spoke with was the need for more education for GPs, our national telehealth nurse service, and our two ThinkGP ME/CFS modules.

The highlight of the weekend was Dr Richard Schloeffel’s presentation, the first of four Plenary sessions delivered at GPCE’s across Australia this year. Dr Schloeffel had the prime spot, first up on Saturday morning, which was the busiest day of the conference. The session was attended by over 300 conference participants and feedback was overwhelmingly positive with attendees learning more about management of patients who present with ME/CFS. Emerge Australia is following up with all the GPs who visited our stand seeking further information. Our aim is to ensure patients have well informed GPs to attend for diagnosis, management and patient support.

Attendees were also interested to learn about the links between Long COVID and ME/CFS, and how these new Long COVID patients can be better managed. Dr Schloeffel again advised to avoid worsening their symptoms, safe management techniques like pacing and rest should be used.

After a huge weekend educating a significant number of healthcare providers about ME/CFS, we look forward to doing it all over again in Perth in late July.

One step at a time

In our previous newsletter, CEO Anne Wilson announced Emerge Australia’s participation at the General Practice Conference & Exhibition (GPCE) conference series in 2022. This article explains more about our participation at these national events, and our broader strategy to improve GP education about ME/CFS. Our enduring goal is for all people with ME/CFS to receive best practice care from all healthcare providers. 

GPCE is the leading professional development conference for GPs in Australia. Emerge Australia will be delivering professional development at the four conferences in 2022. This will start with Sydney: 26 – 29 May, Perth: 23 – 24 July, Brisbane: 10 – 11 September, and finishes with Melbourne: 11 – 13 November.  

These conferences are targeted to GPs but practice nurses, practice staff, GP registrars, allied health professionals and medical students also attend. Each session that participants attend contributes towards their annual CPD point requirements. With up to 1000 healthcare professionals attending the plenary sessions alone, GPCE is one of the few opportunities to reach such a large cohort of healthcare professionals.  

Those of us in the ME/CFS community know about the urgent need to engage with, and educate, GPs to diagnose and safely manage people with ME/CFS. We highlighted this need in our recently released report State of the Nation: Because people with ME/CFS matter and in the awareness week petition, which is still available to sign here 

Long COVID has, once again, helped us to secure this opportunity to shine a light on ME/CFS. Our keynote presentation will educate GPs about diagnosis, treatment and management options for people with ME/CFS and Long COVID. The keynote speaker is our Medical Director, Dr Richard Schloeffel OAM.   

In addition to the keynote addresses, we will promote our existing ThinkGP CPD accredited education modules, which provide in-depth training about diagnosis and management of ME/CFS. Our presence at GPCE will give us the opportunity to engage with conference participants one-on-one and learn more about their ME/CFS education and support requirements.  

2022 is an important year for Emerge Australia to establish a solid and enduring relationship with GPs across Australia. GP education is the cornerstone of our five-year plan which will see us rolling out our newly completed HealthPathway across two key PHNs in Victoria while our Nurse Educator Kate Herbert continues to deliver training to allied health staff across Australia.  

Importantly we are also seeking much needed funds for the updating of Australia’s outdated Clinical Guidelines which will ultimately compliment our GP Education, diagnosis and management of ME/CFS.   

All of these tasks take time, money, and human resources – all of which are limited. We will continue to update you on progress and evolution of our GP Education strategy, as well as work on our other four priority areas as stated in our State of the Nation report as these occur.  Together and with your support, we will deliver much needed results for our community. 

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