Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

What systems participants know about access and service entry and why managers should listen

Rohena Duncombe
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Northern NSW LHD, Bryon Central Hospital Box 1066, Byron Bay, NSW 2481, Australia.

B Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. Email: rduncombe@csu.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16036
Submitted: 6 February 2016  Accepted: 6 July 2016   Published online: 29 August 2016

Abstract

Objective The present study looked at the views of people directly involved in the entry process for community health counselling using the frame of the health access literature. The concurrence of system participants’ views with the access literature highlights access issues, particularly for people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged. The paper privileges the voices of the system participants, inviting local health services to consider using participatory design to improve access at the entry point.

Methods People involved in the entry process for community health counselling explored the question, ‘What, for you, are the features of a good intake system?’ They also commented on themes identified during pilot interviews. These were thematically analysed for each participant group by the researcher to develop a voice for each stakeholder group.

Results People accessing the service could be vulnerable and the entry process failed to take that into account. People directly involved in the counselling service entry system, system participants, consisted of: professionals referring in, people seeking services and reception staff taking first enquiries. They shared substantially the same concerns as each other. The responses from these system participants are consistent with the international literature on access and entry into health services.

Conclusion Participatory service design could improve primary healthcare service entry at the local level. Canvassing the experiences of system participants is important for delivering services to those who have the least access and, in that way, could contribute to health equity.

What is known about the topic? People with the highest health needs receive the fewest services. Health inequality is increasing.

What does this paper add? System participants can provide advice consistent with the academic research literature that is useful for improving service entry at the local level.

What are the implications for practitioners? Participatory design can inform policy makers and service providers. Entry systems could acknowledge the potential vulnerability or disadvantage of people approaching the service.

Additional keywords: health equity, inclusion, participatory design, social determinants of health.


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