Innovation in action
The PHN hosted its inaugural Allied Health Conference #WeCareTogether on 24 May 2022.
Allied health professionals, nurses, business owners, and program managers showcased models of best practice and demonstrated practical quality improvement ideas that could be applied broadly across diverse allied health professions to enhance person-centred care.
The conference was a hybrid event, with face-to-face attendance and presentations from three locations across the Hunter New England Central Coast region, and online. Presentations were live streamed from the in-person audience hub location to the virtual online attendees and to the two non-presenting hub locations. One hundred and two people attended the conference face-to-face, and 49 online.
Based on the ABC series You Can’t Ask That, the PHN asked some controversial questions to break down myths and explore the scope of practice of medical professionals to work better together, and these were showcased at the conference.
A key takeaway message for the PHN was that many attendees were previously unaware of the support and training opportunities now offered to allied health professionals by the PHN.
Digital health success | 100,000 SeNT eReferrals
In the first half of 2022 the SeNT eReferral system, launched in 2016, clocked up 100,000 referrals electronically transmitted to over 450 Hunter New England Local Health District and private health providers across the region, providing security, reducing errors and saving both administrative and clinical time.
SeNT eReferrals is a component of the Integrated Care Enablers partnership between the PHN and Hunter New England Local Health District, exploring how digital health technology can be utilised to connect primary care and tertiary care, to deliver better health outcomes for our communities.
Over 95 per cent of eligible general practices in the region are currently accessing the SeNT eReferral system.
The PHN's CEO, Richard Nankervis, said the milestone was a significant step towards achieving the PHN’s digital health strategy. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve experienced a significant increase in the availability and use of digital technologies in healthcare, including telehealth and My Health Record along with e-Referrals”.
Hunter New England Health Chief Executive, Michael DiRienzo said the e-referral process was a key priority for the district and was pleased to have championed this for the benefit of patients.
Several of the region’s practices, including Mayfield Medical Connection and Appletree Family Practice have each processed more than 2,500 SeNT eReferrals. The clinical areas most popular with eReferrals include maternity, gynaecology, and gastroenterology.
Digital health grants
In December 2021, the PHN’s Aged Care team launched a virtual health capabilities self-assessment for residential aged care facilities (RACF). This self-assessment was designed to support the PHN’s digital health strategy by initially encouraging foundational capability for virtual care video consultations and to announce the upcoming grant funding.
Two grant streams were offered to RACFs, the first being the $5,000 Health-e Together Digital Health Grants and the second being the RACF telehealth bundles. The Health-e Together grants were available for RACFs to use at their discretion, while the telehealth bundles included a specially developed telehealth trolley worth $5,000.
The timing of the self-assessment and grant announcement coincided with a region-wide outbreak of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, by the end of which all RACFs in the region (comprising over 13,000 beds) had experienced at least one outbreak. This further demonstrated the importance of digital capabilities and the availability of telehealth in RACFs.
The assessment results facilitated a phased approach to the delivery of the telehealth bundles, based on the needs of each RACF. RACFs with a greater need included those with less than 50 beds, standalone facilities or those owned by a small community organisation, and those with no dedicated IT provider.
Janean Cole, Group Manager Residential Care Services at Northern Coalfields Community Care Association said the telehealth trolley they received through the PHN significantly reduced time frames for the clinical review of their residents.
“The telehealth trolley has been invaluable for our residents, particularly during COVID. Telehealth means that our residents are able to access consultations for symptom management in a timely manner, which not only saves time and travel but has prevented many hospital admissions and therefore the risks associated with hospitalisation including infections and falls.”
Of the approximate 190 RACFs in the HNECC PHN footprint, 129 facilities (80 per cent) received a grant or telehealth bundle.
Developing state-wide HealthPathways for implementation of SafeScript NSW
SafeScript NSW is a real time prescription monitoring system. It was rolled out during 2021-22 and allows prescribers and pharmacists to access real-time information about their patient’s prescription history for certain high-risk medicines. Its aim is to improve clinical decision making and reduce the incidence of harm.
Hunter New England Community HealthPathways worked in partnership with eHealth NSW to assist with the development of NSW Community HealthPathways to support the implementation of SafeScript NSW.
They collaborated with subject matter experts in the areas of Pain, Drugs and Alcohol, Mental Health, General Practice and Pharmacy to develop a suite of pathways that articulated the program and informed prescribers and pharmacists to support patients who may be identified as at risk of harm. This included the development of an information page and clinical support pages for use in both pharmacy and general practice settings.
The SafeScript NSW program has now been rolled out to all of NSW and the pathways have been attached to all NSW community HealthPathways programs. HNE HealthPathways continues to inform the program’s evaluation.
Primary Care Domestic Family Violence Program
Domestic Family Violence (DFV) is well recognised in Australia as a social issue, but what is less understood is its significant health impacts. DFV is the leading contributor to the burden of disease for women aged 18-44 years of age, higher than smoking, obesity, and alcohol misuse. The PHN is leading a range of initiatives focused on getting help to people experiencing domestic and family violence, faster.
Through partnering with the NSW state-based Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS), the PHN is building bridges between the primary care and specialist DFV sectors, training general practice teams to recognise, respond and refer their patients who are experiencing DFV.
The PHN has developed a Domestic Abuse and Violence (DFAV) GP Action Plan, designed to enable clinicians to identify patients at immediate risk, plan, manage, record and refer them to support services via an exclusive primary care pathway for patient triage and support.
Funding for the pilot program has been extended by four years, allowing the PHN to build on the work already completed.
Movement Disorder Nurse Specialist (MDNS) Pilot
The PHN received Commonwealth funding to deliver a Movement Disorder Nurse Specialist (MDNS) pilot program in the New England North West region.
The primary care model delivers a hub and spoke nurse outreach program for people living with Parkinson’s disease in rural and remote regions, providing individualised support for patients and their carers around how to best manage their condition.
The pilot program additionally provides education and capacity building opportunities for local primary care practitioners in best practice and care for people living with Parkinson’s disease.