Integration of primary care with the wider health system has been pursued across Queensland as a way of improving patient care and improving costs. The HealthPathways program, developed in Canterbury, NZ, was introduced in Mackay Hospital and Health Service in 2016.
HealthPathways is designed to improve the referral process for clinicians, giving up-to-date evidence and best practice advice and providing the local context for general practitioners to refer patients to the most convenient, appropriate services.
AusHSI developed an evaluation that measured referral rates as a proxy for clinical confidence. Using referral rates to quantify avoidable referrals, AusHSI found that for diseases where HealthPathways was available, clinicians were able to manage more patients in the primary setting, make more appropriate specialist referrals for complex patients, and deliver a service that was comparable to specialist care at a lower cost.
In the context of HealthPathways being implemented steadily across Australia, from South Australia to Far North Queensland, AusHSI believes that the lessons learned from this evaluation can inform service delivery across the country to develop a more appropriate, effective, and low-cost service to patients.
The final report HealthPathways: An economic analysis of the impact of primary care pathways in Mackay, Queensland can be read here
AusHSI was contracted by North Queensland Primary Health Network, in partnership with the Mackay Institute of Research and Innovation to deliver an economic evaluation. A literature review showed that this was the first economic evaluation of a pathways program globally, and the first to associate changes to the referral process with impacts on the health service.