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Meeting challenges head-on: Welcome to Western Queensland HealthPathways

Despite being at the very beginning of their HealthPathways journey, it’s clear that the new Western Queensland HealthPathways team is highly adaptable and up for a challenge.

On Monday 10 February, the team’s symposium event in Brisbane marked the official start of their HealthPathways programme. In a health jurisdiction characterised by its vast distances, approximately 40 participants joined remotely from 10 different regional locations, demonstrating from the outset how they will use HealthPathways to transcend geographic boundaries.

This ability to adapt to circumstances quickly came to the fore as the new team faced the challenge of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-March the Western Queensland team changed their launch plan to go live several months earlier than planned, to give local practitioners access to COVID-19 resources.

The new site, which went live on Tuesday 31 March, is already playing a key role in the local response.


February symposium sets the scene

The agenda for the February symposium set the scene for a HealthPathways programme that will place a high priority on meeting the needs of its sparsely populated, remote, and rural communities. 

Speaking to practitioners joining the event from all over the region, Stuart Gordon, CEO of Western Queensland (WQ) PHN, and Linda Patat, Chief Executive of the South West Hospital and Health Service and Executive Sponsor for the Western Queensland HealthPathways programme, shared their opening thoughts before handing over to Ian Anderson, Streamliners CEO and MC for the day. 

“In relation to health outcomes for communities, a postcode should not be more important than a genetic code,” said Linda, as she spoke about the challenges of providing healthcare to many remote locations in a vast geographic area.

Linda acknowledged the benefits gained by observing the progress made by HealthPathways teams from the wider Queensland Health area, and the opportunity HealthPathways would provide to ensure service providers in dispersed locations were represented locally.

“I was sold on the benefits, particularly for rural and remote communities, when I heard a doctor from a remote area relate his experiences. If anything can make people and place work for our local communities, this partnership can,” she said.

Ian then provided a brief overview of the history of the HealthPathways Community. He encouraged the new team to access the experience and support of their peers by working collaboratively across the community.


Shared experiences from Mackay and Western Australia

Dr Aaron Kennedy, Senior Clinical Editor for Mackay and Regional Group Clinical Advisor for Queensland and Dr Sue Jackson, Senior Clinical Editor for Western Australia and Regional Group Clinical Advisor for NT, SA, and WA both shared their experiences developing HealthPathways in regions where communities were also widely dispersed.

Aaron encouraged participants to take a broad view of pathway development to ensure a patient’s whole primary care team could access the right localised advice. He emphasised how useful HealthPathways was for general practitioners new to an area, shared working examples of the localisation process, and provided an overview of Base HealthPathways.

Sue also shared her experiences with using HealthPathways to overcome the challenges faced by remote and isolated communities where access to healthcare was limited. She highlighted how her team used HealthPathways to address fragmentation and connect seven country regions, and emphasised the importance of maintaining a strong team when great distances and lack of local services were the norm.

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Dr Aaron Kennedy shares his experiences with the new Western Queensland HealthPathways team


Bringing it all together for an early launch

Shortly after the symposium, the new Western Queensland HealthPathways team had to quickly revise their plans for a July go-live.

In mid-March, they decided to aim for a go-live by the end of the month to enable clinicians to access to the COVID-19 response package.  “The potential for WQ HealthPathways to add to the pandemic response across the region and benefit all health services, both hospital and primary health care, was significant,” says Stuart Gordon, CEO, Western Queensland PHN. By Tuesday 31 March the ambitious goal had been achieved.

“It’s been a huge task within a very tight timeframe, but it’s already paying off,” says Western Queensland HealthPathways Programme Manager, Robin Warren. 

“Our practitioners throughout Western Queensland have immediate access to the COVID-19 resources and updates, including information on how local health services are adapting,” she says. 

Stuart confirms this. “Despite the diversity across the huge geographic area of Western Queensland, health professionals face many similar issues and experiences.  It is reassuring for them to know that there is a source of truth available that supports other health system responses in this unprecedented time,” he says.

Associated pages also made live for the early launch include those for the public health units, emergency assessment pages, and resources for general practitioners. 

Clinical Editor Tom Palmer dedicated his full attention to the COVID-19 work and, supported by extra hours put in by the Streamliners writing team, managed to localise all of the required information by the revised go-live date. These include clinical pages endorsed for Queensland-wide use and localised service and resource pages, including emergency and public health pages.

“We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the highly collaborative approach of the Queensland HealthPathways regions in developing their COVID-19 response,” says Tom.

The team will plan a launch celebration down the track, when the remaining pages, originally intended for launch, have been developed. “These pages are already being worked on, and include child health, cardiology, and sexual health clinical pathways and service pages,” says Robin.


Building local engagement

For tips and resources to help you build HealthPathways engagement in your area, see Getting General Practice Engaged with HealthPathways, or Engagement and Education. These resources have been provided by members of the HealthPathways Community.

If you have any questions about the Western Queensland HealthPathways Programme, please contact your lead writer.