I was proud to be able to host, together with the Local Health District, the launch of HealthPathways in our region last week. This is an important initiative that will certainly contribute to empowering health professionals to deliver high quality, accessible and integrated primary healthcare.
The event involved GPs, Practice Nurses, Practice staff, private health professionals specialists and other clinical hospital staff from across the NBM region, and I thank them all for giving up their time to be there.
One of the key times when patient care and safety is at risk is at the point when a patient transfers from one healthcare provider or sector to another. For the patient, moving from one sector to another can be a little like navigating a moat, as they climb out of one health sector into a big ditch and then have to claw their way into the next health sector.
Some patients are lucky and get to use a bridge. They get the right care in the right place at the right time. But for many others, their patient journey can be a struggle.
I think of HealthPathways as creating lots of bridges over that moat, with clear directions and signs.
Some clinicians have told us that when they first get involved with HealthPathways they think, “Great, I can find out about services in my area,” or “Great, HealthPathways will document how others can refer appropriately", but the magic of HealthPathways is that it helps different clinicians from primary care and acute care, such as hospital care, to be in the same room, talking to each other.
It allows healthcare providers to better understand the barriers or obstacles impacting other sectors; they can understand the pressures and constraints on other healthcare providers and why the current systems aren’t working.
It allows them to sit down and talk about how to overcome those barriers, what would work better and come up with joint solutions to problems.
It allows them to design a healthpathway that will work.
We have lots of challenges in our region. Health inequities are rife. We have some of the highest rates of chronic diseases and lowest rates of cancer screening in the country. We have significant vulnerable population groups such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, older people, culturally and linguistically diverse populations, people with chronic diseases, people experiencing mental illness, those in socioeconomic disadvantage.
We have a dedicated local GP and Practice Nurse workforce who are highly engaged with patients and support many of them to live healthily at home. But we do have system challenges.
Our health system is complex and hard to navigate, we have healthcare professionals who are stretched and workforce shortages in some areas, our ED is bursting at the seams, almost half the General Practices in our region are solo GP practices; Allied health is there to support – but without the right infrastructure it’s hard to connect the dots.
So we need supports for our clinicians. HealthPathways offers a one-stop shop, an agreed way of doing things locally that meets clinical guidelines and makes the best use of local health resources – people and funding.
As we start this journey, I would like to acknowledge a number of people who have been driving this initiative and will be providing the necessary support for its next steps; Dr Louise McDonnell, Kevin Hedge from NBMLHD and from NBMPHN, Elisa Manley, Jackie Janosi and Nick Rosser.
And most of all, I thank all the local healthcare providers who will be joining us on this journey, which at the end of the day is all about making it easier for our patients - for the people in our community - to get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.