GPs script new ways for better health

By Jack Gillespie

Primary Health Network GP Liaison Officer for the Sunshine Coast area, Dr Jon Harper, has outlined why general practitioners are better equipped when treating their patients.

Eight months ago, the Sunshine Coast adopted a program called Health Pathways, an online platform that provides GPs with information pertaining to different conditions.

Health Pathways contains a clinical service directory that allows GPs to refer their patients on to further treatment options. Photo: Hamza Butt, Flickr

The web-based decision-making tool also contains a clinical service directory that allows GPs to refer their patients on to further treatment options, such as specialists.

“Health Pathways has been adopted by a number of health jurisdictions throughout New Zealand, Australia, and also in the UK,” Dr Harper said.

Similar sources have existed in the past, however, none that offer enough information to be a GP’s definitive resource.

Dr Harper said Queensland Health and the local Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital service jointly funded the project after Queensland Health created a statewide criterion for GPs referring to public hospitals.

Health Pathways was seen as an ideal host for such criteria because it would allow GPs to produce more accurate referrals, and therefore increase a patient’s chance of being accepted into a public hospital.

The program was originally created in New Zealand following a series of earthquakes that took place in and around Christchurch in 2010 and 2011.

The earthquakes cost New Zealand an estimated total of $40 million in damages, and many buildings could not be used anymore.

Dr Harper said that with the health system totally disrupted, New Zealand was forced to implement new structures and change the way they operated, and a product of that was Health Pathways.

As the platform’s clinical lead, Dr Harper oversees the content that is uploaded to the website.

He has a team of people who seek information from a number of outlets, confirms its validity, then publishes the content on the website.

“The key thing is that the information is relevant to what the GP needs,” Dr Harper said.

“So our sales pitch… to general practices is that we are providing a tool that has exactly what they need, [and] they can easily find it within the easy-to-navigate webpage.”

When any number of clinicians uses Health Pathways, they can enter a patient’s condition or suspected illness and within seconds be provided with symptom outlines, management options, and referral possibilities.

In turn, a patient’s waiting time is reduced, they receive optimal care regarding their condition, and during their consultation they have access to as broad a range of quality information as the clinician.

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