As the threat of a global COVID-19 pandemic loomed in early January, the HealthPathways Community began its contingency planning. In early March, work focused exclusively on the rapidly evolving situation and a COVID-19 core response group was tasked with developing new COVID-19 guidance for general practice teams.
“In a situation like this, being able to provide easy to follow, locally adapted guidance for health practitioners can make a huge difference to both quality and safety of care,” says Dr Kieran Holland, Clinical Lead, HealthPathways Platform.
“The 45 regionally-based HealthPathways teams across New Zealand, Australia, and in the United Kingdom support clinicians who care for nearly 30 million people. The HealthPathways Community has rapidly joined forces to collaboratively develop, share, and maintain the latest clinically useful COVID-19 information,” he says.
HealthPathways COVID-19 response package
The HealthPathways COVID-19 response package includes information on assessing and managing patients with suspected COVID-19, preparing and managing a general practice in the COVID-19 environment, protecting the safety of front-line health workers, and communicating the impacts on local health services.
To help general practitioners keep abreast of rapidly changing COVID-19 information, the package is managed in three layers. Firstly, the international information is updated by the Streamliners writing team. Secondly, a lead region in each geographic group ensures the guidance aligns with national or state emergency response plans.
“Maintaining material in this way allows us to share the massive workload associated with this rapidly changing health emergency,” says Professor Mike Ardagh, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch and Specialist in Emergency Medicine at the Canterbury District Health Board.
Finally, local information, such as lab collection points and health service changes, is maintained by local HealthPathways teams at a District Health Board (DHB) or Primary Health Network (PHN) level.
“This has been a large-scale application of our pathway sharing framework that has met enthusiastic support at all levels,” says Dr Louise Delaney, GP Clinical Editor, HealthPathways Illawarra Shoalhaven.
Duplication is minimised as each local HealthPathways team uses the package as a starting point, adapting it to suit the needs of their local health system.
“Each time we post an update, we make the recommended actions and timeframes for local HealthPathways teams clear,” says Dr Aaron Kennedy, a Queensland-based GP who helped to develop the initial response package.
“In addition to the clinical guidance, there’s also advice to help local teams create their individualised COVID-19 plans, assign clear project roles, and keep executive sponsors informed,” he says.
“This way, we help ensure that as each local health system adapts to the emerging situation, our network communicates COVID-19 change as it happens.”
Adapting and connecting
To support the uptake of the COVID-19 response package, local and regionally-nominated COVID-19 clinical editors help to ensure updated information is quickly adapted for local environments.
Local HealthPathways teams also connect with other clinical networks and stakeholders in their area, aligning HealthPathways COVID-19 response work with groups such as Public Health Directors, Hospital Chief Medical Officers, GP Liaison Officers, Emergency Departments, and Aged Care services. Contact is also maintained with state or national primary care response groups and Chief Medical Officers.
A new private Facebook group for HealthPathways Clinical Editors facilitates clinical collaboration and peer support.
“This has been well received, clinical editors are actively sharing ideas, resources, good humour and a real sense of doing good work amidst the turmoil of pandemic,” says Dr Delaney.
“Health systems are known for their fragmentation, but it’s at times like this that we need to find ways to quickly share reliable and immediate information on a global level,” says Ian Anderson, CEO of Streamliners and founding member of the HealthPathways Community.
“From emergency policy makers to front-line practitioners, the HealthPathways Community is proving how quickly we can adapt and reprioritise,” he says.
To date the COVID-19 pathway and resources package has been adopted by almost all local HealthPathways teams in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. With the recent addition of the Hawke’s Bay DHB to the HealthPathways Community, HealthPathways is now available to every general practice in New Zealand.
All HealthPathways sites in New Zealand have been upgraded to the new mobile-friendly platform so that the information can be easily accessed from phones and tablets. In Canterbury, similar guidance is now available for hospital use in Hospital HealthPathways.
“The information for hospital clinicians needs to be different in many respects, yet often the same and always compatible, so that what happens in the community and in the hospital is well aligned. This is particularly important during a pandemic,” says Professor Ardagh.
Feedback from medical practitioners, critical to ensuring content keeps pace with the rapidly changing clinical landscape, is immediately shared with the clinical editors and technical writers developing and updating the COVID-19 resources.
“Fortunately, many of our regional group clinical advisors and clinical editors are directly using the pathways in their frontline clinical work, which has kept us on our toes,” says Dr Louise Delaney.
Find out more
Watch the video overview of the information being provided to medical practitioners throughout the HealthPathways Community.
For an overview of HealthPathways, see What is HealthPathways