Health Pathways User Case Study - Dr Jill McIlraith, Aurora Health Centre
From the routine to the rare - HealthPathways provide GPs with referral guidelines
Jill McIlraith’s experience in family practice will sound familiar to most of her fellow General Practitioners: “You don’t know what you’re going to see next,” she explains. “It could be just about anything.”
Like all GP’s, Dr McIlraith will treat a large variety of medical conditions on any given day at the Aurora Health Centre in South Dunedin, a busy general practice with nine doctors, four nurses and a counsellor.
“There are the usual upper respiratory infections, ear aches and lower back pain, but we’ll also see uncommon presentations most days as well,” she says.
Whether dealing with the routine or rare, Dr McIlraith often consults Southern HealthPathways in managing patient care and referrals.
Southern HealthPathways, a condition and referral information portal for clinicians in the district, is a valuable resource for helping physicians and other healthcare providers manage patient care through the whole of the healthcare system.
Accessible like any internet site via a PC, Dr McIlraith checks HealthPathways for referral and prescription guidelines, to verify an assessment or double check her treatment plan, as well as an educational resource for patients.
“I'll sometimes turn my computer monitor to show the patient the screen, so they can see for themselves that what I am suggesting is the accepted treatment for their complaint,” Dr McIlraith says. “Many HealthPathways are localised to this district, showing how we refer here. This kind of information can be very reassuring to the patient. It’s much better than Dr Google.”
For unusual presentations, HealthPathways is equally valuable for the kinds of cases that primary care clinicians don’t see every day.
“With atypical presentations, it’s reassuring to know you’re not over-reaching and I’ll often reference HealthPathways in referral letters to secondary care to confirm I am following agreed-upon practices.”
In addition to using HealthPathways in her own day-to-day work, Dr McIlraith encourages Aurora Health Centre GP registrars to make use of and even study HealthPathways as well.
“If registrar comes to me with a question my first response very often is ‘Have you looked it up on HealthPathways?’” she says. “And I recommend they read all the HealthPathways as a part of their exam preparations.”
Like Dr McIlraith, Central Otago GP Dr Keith Abbott consults HealthPathways regularly, particularly for referrals to secondary care.
“It helps me structure referrals, ensuring I have done all the appropriate investigations prior to referral and it will sometimes highlight investigations I may not have considered in my patient workup,” Dr Abbott says. “I can also use it to help me explain my decisions to patients.”
The team at Junction Health where Dr Abbott practices in Cromwell, also uses the protocols set out in HealthPathways for the treatment of cellulitis with intravenous antibiotics.
“It’s been very helpful and saves patients unnecessary hospitalisation,” he says.
Dr Peter Gent, Clinical Leader Primary Care for Southern HealthPathways and a GP with Mornington Health Centre in Dunedin, says the pathways can clarify current processes and current practices.
“HealthPathways are accepted guidelines, drafted and agreed upon by clinicians in the district, but they do not take away from a clinician’s autonomy and aren’t a replacement for a physician’s own judgment and discretion,” he says.
The HealthPathways landing page also carries important local system news such as Public Health South announcements, information on newly localised pathways, as well as important healthcare and medical updates for the district.
Want to know more? Check out HealthPathways http://southern.healthpathways.org.nz/index.htm