Inner-city Melbourne hooks up to health pathways

Victorian Health Minister David Davis will next week officially launch HealthPathways Melbourne, a web-based system that provides GPs with clinical guidance on specific health conditions and referral options to local heath services from one portal.

HealthPathways are an increasingly popular method being used in Australia and New Zealand to help GPs manage common conditions, to easily refer to local specialists and allied health professionals, and to link up with hospital-based services.

They have been used in the Hunter New England region since 2011 and in western Sydney for the last year. Other regions introducing similar systems include Victoria's Barwon area and the NSW central coast.

Based on a system first developed in New Zealand's Canterbury district and to a lesser extent the UK's Map of Medicine, they are designed to provide GPs with condition-specific specialist advice that may assist in developing more accurate pre-referral work-ups. Each pathway contains clinical information and referral information designed for the local health system.

The establishment of HealthPathways Melbourne has been co-ordinated by Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local (IEMML) and Inner North West Melbourne Medicare Local (INWMML), with local GPs acting as clinical editors for each pathway.

Pathways have been designed for diabetes, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, fatty liver disease, coeliac disease in adults and in children, and back pain, with further work planned for this year for cardiovascular, dermatology, COPD and mental health.

According to Brunswick West GP and INWMML HealthPathways clinical editor Debra Wilson, the pathways had been developed for the local system by working with GPs, specialists and other health providers in the region, all of whom have expertise around managing a particular health condition.

“The resulting pathway condenses not only clinical guidance but also a range of detailed local information that ensures the GP can find the best service or referral point across the whole local health system,” Dr Wilson said.

“Just as importantly, HealthPathways Melbourne has been designed to allow any health professional that uses the system to provide feedback and suggestions. That means we can continually improve and update individual pathways over time.”

INWMML CEO Christopher Carter said the portal would also help GPs to link up to the 150 or so outpatient clinics in the region.

“Victoria has 86 different hospital networks with a large number of different referral points covering a range of specialist hospital departments,” Associate Professor Carter said.

“The feedback we get from hospitals and from GPs is that by reducing unnecessary referrals and ensuring the right tests and investigations are done beforehand we can cut down on delays in people getting appropriate and well-targeted specialist support.

“The pathways also include guidance information for patients so that they can be better informed about what they can do to better manage their health.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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