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“Nothing beats localised advice” - Murray HealthPathways evaluation

Published on 03 Aug, 2021 | Return|


From Left to Right: Dr Anne-Marie McKinnon, Senior Clinical Editor; Chris Fishley, HealthPathways Redesign Lead; Janice Radrekusa, Director of Coordination; Cass Bennett, HealthPathways Support; Nik Palmer, HealthPathways Coordinator; Jacqui Payne, HealthPathways Support; Dr Wendy Connor, Medical Advisor; Veronica Coady, HealthPathways Coordinator; Lisa Callipari, HealthPathways Coordinator.

Evaluating your HealthPathways programme can help you to understand the value it delivers to stakeholders and measure how it helps achieve better outcomes in your local health system. 

Last year, Murray PHN commissioned an independent evaluation of their HealthPathways programme to help determine its benefits and to inform future activities.

The evaluation explored the value of Murray HealthPathways against the original objectives set for the programme, to:

  • inform, guide, and support health professional practice
  • improve the experience and outcomes of patients and carers
  • enable health system improvement.

“Now that we are five years into the Murray HealthPathways journey, we recognise that an independent evaluation would provide a good opportunity for stakeholder engagement and evidence to determine the value of the programme, and importantly support future development,” says Chris Fishley, Murray HealthPathways Redesign Lead.

The evaluation, conducted during a six-week period in October-November 2020, also sought to inform future directions for Murray HealthPathways. In compiling it, evaluation consultant Alison Coughlan analysed data from existing sources, surveyed clinicians across the Murray PHN region, and developed three case studies to illustrate key dimensions of the programme and its impact.

“The information we have been collecting over the years, such as user data, Clinical Working Group surveys, interviews, and case studies were very useful during the evaluation process,” says Chris.

“Since the beginning, the Murray HealthPathways team have made it a priority to collect routine evaluation data from Clinical Working Groups. This has helped us to know what has worked well or what hasn’t, and to refine the process accordingly. This is important to ensure maximum engagement and use of busy health professionals’ time. That they are being heard also means that they are much more likely to participate again,” she says.

Targets exceeded

The evaluation clearly demonstrated that the Murray HealthPathways programme has exceeded the targets set at its launch in November 2016.

Key highlights include:

  • the vast majority of participants in Clinical Working Groups would recommend participation to a colleague (87%) and would be involved again themselves (91%)
  • 83% of all respondents and 88% of GP respondents considered HealthPathways to be a valuable resource to support clinical practice
  • respondents called for the provision and localisation of HealthPathways to continue the Clinical Working Group process in the four Murray PHN regions
  • it was considered critical that the currency and relevance of the information in HealthPathways is maintained for it to remain as an essential tool for clinicians at the point of care.

The evaluation generated strong evidence of the benefits of Murray HealthPathways to end users, and of the programme elements that are critical to maintain and build on. Opportunities for improvement identified in the evaluation report include:

  • increasing the awareness and uptake of Murray HealthPathways
  • increasing the number of localised pathways
  • integrating HealthPathways with other systems to the extent possible, for example, pathology systems and practice software systems
  • adding templates that guide and support the use of new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items, for example Eating Disorder Management Plans and Healthy Heart Checks
  • integrating HealthPathways into all Murray PHN work areas and programmes.

The level of agreement about the quality of Murray HealthPathways and its key role in informing patient care was clear.

Case studies

Three case studies in the evaluation report describe the impact of HealthPathways. In particular, they demonstrate the importance of HealthPathways in reflecting system capabilities, and local health system changes:

  • Melanoma care in the Murray PHN region – reflects local capabilities and unique pathways, as well as highlighting issues where access to best practice care needs attention in rural locales.
  • The Paediatric HealthPathways Clinical Working Group - enabled improved access to paediatric care in North West Victoria.
  • The HealthPathways localisation process – sparked collaborative efforts to improve the care of vulnerable children living in the Murray PHN region.

“These initial case studies will form part of the basis for future health system improvement and redesign activities as HealthPathways becomes further integrated into health system reform,” says Chris.

Survey respondent feedback

As part of the evaluation process, an online survey was distributed across the Murray PHN catchment. A sample of the responses from HealthPathways users highlights the benefits of HealthPathways for both practice and patient:

“I think it’s a fabulous system – having a resource at your fingertips at your desktop that you can go to and trust the information. It’s local, vetted by people considered to have expertise. This is great as there is so much competing non-evidence-based, non-trustworthy information out there.”

“Nothing beats localised advice / referral pathways.”

“The pathway makes the chronic disease management process more streamlined and accessible.”

“When in doubt, the HealthPathways have provided a clear route and guidance on the next best treatment or investigation course.”

“Working from different rooms with different computers, from home or in the aged care sector, I can access HealthPathways and have access to information in the one spot.”

Next steps and more information

Looking to the future, the Murray HealthPathways team are engaging with other members of the HealthPathways Community to gain further insights.

“The Murray HealthPathways programme has reached a critical point in its maturity. We are in discussions with other longer-established HealthPathways teams to learn the steps they have taken to ensure their programme continues to develop and have impact on the local health system. The evaluation report, along with learnings from these talks, is assisting to increase uptake of and integration in PHN and wider health system activities,” says Chris.

You can access the full evaluation report in the publication database on the HealthPathways Research Hub, under MHP bibliography record.

If you have any questions, or would like to know more about conducting an evaluation of your HealthPathways programme, please contact HealthPathways Research and Evaluation Hub Manager, Simon Parsons at researchhub@healthpathwayscommunity.org