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

HealthPathways improving access to care

Stephen D. Gill A , Sarah Mansfield B , Margie McLeod C , Kathryn von Treuer B D , Matthew Dunn E and Frances Quirk A B F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Barwon Health, PO Box 281, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia. Email: steveg@barwonhealth.org.au

B School of Medicine, Deakin University, 75 Pigdons Road, Waurn Ponds, Vic. 3216, Australia. Email: s.mansfield@deakin.edu.au

C Western Victoria Primary Health Network, 131 Myers Street, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia. Email: Margie.McLeod@WestVicPHN.com.au

D The Cairnmillar Institute. 391-393 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn East, Vic. 3123, Australia. Email: kathryn.vontreuer@cairnmillar.org.au

E School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong Waterfront Campus, 1, Gheringhap Street, Geelong, Vic. 3220, Australia. Email: M.Dunn@deakin.edu.au

F Corresponding author. Email: frances.quirk@barwonhealth.org.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17090
Submitted: 21 April 2017  Accepted: 31 October 2017   Published online: 8 February 2018

Abstract

Objective HealthPathways (HPW) is an international web-based information portal that provides health practitioners with guidelines and referral pathways to specialists and services. The present study explored usage of HPW by general practitioners (GPs) in the Barwon region, south-west Victoria, and any benefits and barriers to its use.

Methods Approximately 421 GPs provide services in 86 clinics across the Barwon region, south-west Victoria and Barwon Health is the public health service providing acute, subacute, residential aged care and community health services to approximately 350 000 people. The present study was a mixed-methods analysis of all GPs in the region, who were invited to complete a survey in two waves (2014 and 2016) and participate in focus groups. Data were survey/questionnaire (fixed response and free text options, analysed with descriptive statistics and content analysis), and focus groups (interview and facilitated group discussion, analysed using the principles of thematic analysis).

Results Most GPs surveyed used HPW and usage increased over time from 2014 to 2016 (67% vs 77% respectively). Junior GPs used HPW more often than the more experienced practitioners. GPs reported that HPW was easy to access and navigate, improved their knowledge of local services, improved their confidence, changed their clinical management and saved them time. Main barriers to use of HPW were: GPs did not think to look at HPW, or simply did not know about it.

Conclusions HPW has the potential to improve patient management and health outcomes, and use of HPW is increasing over time.

What is known about the topic? Initiatives such as HPW are viewed positively by clinicians and have the potential to address challenges at the primary–secondary care interface, specifically, referral to secondary specialists.

What does this paper add? Proof of concept that the ongoing availability of localised HPW for common clinical conditions improves GP usage of HPW and has increased access to HPW as the first source of clinical information. Benefits and barriers to use have been identified.

What are the implications for practitioners? HPW improves knowledge of local services and provides GPs with easy access to referral pathways.

Additional keywords: clinical pathways, primary care, referral.


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