Coordinated, tailored and patient-centred approaches are key to our future healthcare needs, and PhD student Mary O'Loughlin is using the perspectives of people living with chronic conditions to find ways to improve health services in the Cairns community. “My research is about making the system work for local people, and I gather face-to-face viewpoints about the patient-journey, which gives people a voice by finding out what they think and what they need,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Ms O’Loughlin’s PhD research, supervised by Dr Linton Harris, Professor Robyn McDermott and Associate Professor Caryn West, differs from other studies by using existing administrative data sets from Cairns Hospital and linking them with the outcomes of a patient survey on reasons for presentation to the emergency department. It builds on an earlier project by Professor Jane Mills.
“As part of a wider mixed methods project, I conducted 21 in-depth interviews, which were supported by money from a FNQ Hospital Foundation Grant. There is a lack of evidence reported from the patient perspective on whether or not their hospitalisation or emergency presentation could have been prevented, so my interviews explored these areas and found out which elements of the Federal Government’s Health Care Home model are of value to patients. The outcomes will inform my PhD and in turn will improve service delivery for people in Cairns,” Ms O’Loughlin explained. “Cairns Hospital, the North
Queensland Primary Health Network and other Primary Health Networks (PHN) from across Australia have shown interest in the study and how they can use the findings to benefit those with chronic illness.”
A Health Care Home is a general practice or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) that coordinates care for patients with chronic and complex conditions. There is currently a nationwide trial of the model, which promotes tailored care and flexible ways of working. Importantly, it also has a different payment system, moving away from the existing fee-for-service model to a lump sum payment from Government for the coordination of a range of care services.