By Paul Lupo
St. Lukes Health CEO

I would like to tell you the story of Miss B in order to demonstrate the importance of healthcare providers working collaboratively.

Miss B is 85 and lives alone in an independent living village. She has a regular GP who helps manage her heart condition. One weekend, Miss B wasn’t feeling well and was attended to by a different GP. The GP diagnosed her with a urine infection and told her to drink plenty of fluids.

Miss B did as she was instructed and became short of breath – the extra fluids she had consumed altered her fluid balance and impacted on her heart condition.

The ‘new’ GP did not know about Miss B’s heart condition and treated her appropriately for a urine infection, however, Miss B wasn’t well educated about her condition and didn’t comprehend the impacts of drinking too much.

She could have ended up in hospital.

As proven by Miss B’s story, patient-centric healthcare needs to be at the heart of what those in the health sector do and increased collaboration between all levels of the healthcare system is the best way to ensure this.

Too often it is reported that while our healthcare system is world-class, its fragmented nature can lead to a disconnect between service providers.

This lack of communication can affect even the most basic health issues like managing blood pressure or your medications. For an older person such as Miss B, who has multiple chronic conditions with several different providers managing different aspects of their care or condition, it is vital that collaboration between providers occurs.

A whole range of diagnostic tests and observations can be requested and reported, with at times little or no interaction between the providers administering each test.

Sounds like a perfect storm with less than optimal outcomes or worse.

Recently, St. LukesHealth attended a consumer-focused workshop with the Department of Health to talk about sub-acute care in Tasmania. The department heard very clearly from those in attendance that the voice of the patient or person is often drowned out in the system with a focus on what suits the services or providers. The department understood that there are healthcare access issues, including the non-existence of services in regions, the cost, location of service and knowledge of what is

The convenor asked the workshop if a navigator role would be useful and the overwhelming response was yes. Being able to speak to one person who could advise what services are available, where they are located, how to access them and the cost would provide much more transparency and more timely access to valuable services.

It is heartening to know that more and more providers are considering ways of making sure that the patient is at the centre of their care.

St.LukesHealth provides a holistic service to identified members with chronic disease to aid in averting preventable hospitalisations. The service involves comprehensive assessments and support, providing members and their carers with education and tools to better self-manage their conditions in association with their GP.

Medication errors account for many hospital admissions, so helping members understand their medications and the side effects and interactions with other over the counter medication is an important part of the service.

We are uniquely placed in Tasmania with one health service and one primary health network to take advantage of opportunities to improve services and access to those services for our population.

Working collaboratively with local, state and federal governments, consumers, providers and non-government organisations around chronic disease to improve transparency and
reducing siloed interventions can only result in positive outcomes.