Helping doctors boost their own health


Dr Marmol Stoltz, is passionate about Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors and this extends to seeing her medical colleagues get healthier and more practice-efficient.

As former chairperson of the South African Medical Association’s (SAMA) General Practitioners Private Practice Committee, (GPPPC), she’s wrangled with enough medical politics and draft health legislation and policies to last most people a lifetime. She still chairs SAMA’s Constitutional Matters Committee, and runs two GP practices in Cape Town’s northern suburbs. Dr Stoltz uses her frequent flights to Pretoria for SAMA board meetings as an opportunity to walk wherever possible – and convert her colleagues to Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors and Discovery’s patient Electronic Health Record - HealthID.

“A few years ago, I made a conscious decision to get back to the weight and fitness levels I had when I was much younger,” says Dr Stoltz. “I joined Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors shortly after it was launched in 2016. I cut out carbs completely and all chips and snacks and began eating about 80% vegetables and fish. I must confess though, I still love my various braai meats occasionally,” she laughs.

Patients visiting Dr Stoltz at her Durbanville practice in late 2015 encountered an entirely different-looking person, one they hardly recognised. Shortly after Dr Stolz joined Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors, she was given a Fitbit at a Discovery Leadership Summit which she used to measure her daily steps and set her target heart rate for exercising. “After few years I switched to an app on my phone. Carrying the phone with me while I trained was a bit heavy, so now I can leave the phone at home and still accurately estimate the calories I burn for different exercise modalities. My clothes size has changed completely – I lost 30 kg. Between 5 January 2015 and mid-February I lost 6 kg, spurred on by my daughter who’s lost even more. You cannot manage something if you cannot measure it, so I weigh myself every day. My patients noticed the change and started to follow my exercise routine and are doing great. I’ve always advised my overweight patients to lose weight, but the physical changes they see in me shows them that what I’m doing is highly effective. Some of them are challenging me and saying they’ll lose more than me,” Dr Stoltz enthuses.

“I always take the stairs at airports, and when I go shopping I walk fast – as if somebody’s chasing me. I struggle to get to gym because of my hectic work schedule. If I can stand rather than sit, I do, and my daughter and I go out to wine farms on weekends and walk – my physical activity rate shoots up 500% during my leisure pursuits.”

Discovery Health supports Dr Stolz’ patient care

Dr Stoltz is a firm adherent of investing in good IT systems. Being part of the Discovery Doctors’ Network, she was asked to help pilot the HealthID Electronic Health Record in 2012. Now, a combination of her dedication to healthy living through Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors, and her use of HealthID - accessed on her tablet - have dramatically increased the success of her practice. “We are at the point where we’re thinking of bringing in a third doctor, part-time. I started to implement a lot of data-based disease management and health promotion – far more so than before I had HealthID,” she explains. “HealthID helped me improve the quality of my long-standing chronic disease management programmes. I refocused on looking at patients over a long period, comparing results and the evolution of their diseases. HealthID was the ideal tool to make this easier. I recalled all my chronic patients and entered all their data (with their permission) on HealthID. I’ve developed my own IT-patient tools to assist my locums on the programmes and I have audit sheets for chronic patients. You have to keep up with the technology,” she adds.

When it came to her hypertension patients, for example, HealthID recommended new tests for each and every patient which she hadn’t routinely done on them before. “I started identifying patients who were at risk much earlier and referring them. Patients started talking about how well I was looking after them and referred friends and family. Besides hypertension, I also have patients coming back regularly for disease management and pap smears.”

Balancing work, exercise, diet and leisure

"You cannot drink out of any empty cup. You have to recharge physically and emotionally and live a healthy lifestyle. Burnout is something that threatens my mental health all the time. One of the best things that happened is SAMA asking me to move on after seven years of chairing the GPPPC. Suddenly I could devote more time to my patients, practice and lifestyle," she says.

“Doctors need to deal with our excuses for not exercising or eating healthily. I’ve started with those doctors immediately around me and I’ve had pharmaceutical companies asking me to speak to GP doctor groupings. I’m never quiet at Continuing Professional Development functions, when it comes to us doctors setting a lifestyle example for our patients. I’m continually reading up on health and diets and regularly attend talks.”

Dr Stoltz is known among her peers for giving frank opinions, something her patients appreciate and find credible because they can see she walks the talk. She has learnt how to balance her work and leisure/fitness lifestyles – and the intrinsic stresses.

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