It’s long been recognised that access to high quality palliative care in Australia is variable. Many Australians face difficulties in receiving palliative care due to factors such as system fragmentation, gaps in service provision, geographic scarcity of services or health professionals, access barriers for vulnerable populations and those living in residential aged care facilities, system navigation issues, low confidence of health workers in providing care to those living with a life limiting condition and limited community understanding of what palliative care is.
An example of this is Frank. Frank lives in residential aged care in Victoria. He has multiple chronic illnesses and is approaching the end of his life. The state government funds a palliative care specialist to visit Frank in his aged care home to provide support to staff in managing Frank’s pain.
Frank’s brother lives in an aged care facility in another state. When he needs specialist palliative care to manage his pain, he is transferred into the hospital. He is scared he will die in hospital with none of his friends around him and would prefer to be treated at the aged care home where he lives.
Two brothers, two different sets of needs and two different experiences of care that reflect different practices and approaches. HealthPathways is a resource that can help patients receive the care that they need. It supports general practitioners and healthcare providers to deliver locally relevant, best practice care, while also helping them to know what services and care options are available in their community and how they can be accessed.
HealthPathways is a web-based information portal designed for use by healthcare workers at the point of care. Each pathway is developed by local health professionals and is evidence-informed, but also reflects local reality, and aims to preserve clinical autonomy and patient choice.
Pathways provide concise, relevant and evidenced-based information on the assessment and management of common conditions and symptoms, as well as providing localised referral pathways for accessing services and specialist care. This can be particularly valuable when a healthcare provider is not familiar with the referral pathways for accessing particular services.
HealthPathways was originally developed in Canterbury, New Zealand, to support a whole-of-system approach to patient-centred care, and has since been adopted and adapted by other health systems around the world. HealthPathways have been developed and localised across many Australian communities, Primary Health Networks, and health districts with 25 live HealthPathways sites and a number about to be launched. There are currently 1108 individual HealthPathways with information relevant to palliative care and advance care planning, with already 643 (58%) localised with information specific to their communities and services This includes 138 pathways with information that is specific to providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
An example of HealthPathways topics that may covered include caring for a dying patient at home, nausea and vomiting in palliative care, spinal cord compression in palliative care patients and bereavement, grief and loss.
Importantly all these Health Pathways relevant to end of life have been mapped and brought together. You can find your local HealthPathways site in the ELDAC primary care toolkit or on the HealthPathways Community website. Each local HealthPathways site provides information on how to request access.
A guest blog by Katharine Silk, Integration and Innovation Manager, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association