Partnerships with other health service providers
Other service providers within the health system are natural partners for general practice, as it is difficult for individual practices to provide a full range of health services. In certain cases, for example, where patients have significant comorbidities or a complex drug regimen, it may be beneficial to collaborate formally with appropriate specialists to ensure that overlap is minimised and errors decreased.
Involving partners in patient care
A patient held record that is carried with the patient, in which all health providers incorporate information, may be very effective for patients with complex pathologies (eg. antenatal care record multiple chronic diseases).
Use opportunities of community events such as a fair or sporting event to set up a tent or stall with a health theme. Alternatively, it may be the launch of a prevention program or campaign. The community event or program launch provides a venue for disseminating information about prevention services, networking and informing communities about forthcoming programs.
A range of workplace programs have improved the uptake of prevention activities and health outcomes, including multifactorial health promotion programs, smoking cessation, hazardous drinking, prevention of back pain, and improving nutrition.
Divisions of general practice
A central role and function of divisions of general practice is to support general practice to provide quality care within the community. Divisions often act as a point of liaison between GPs, government and other health providers. Many divisions provide opportunities for practices to participate in community, state and national health initiatives.
Youth health clinics and services
The overall aim of youth health clinics is to improve the accessibility of local doctors to young people, particularly those who are marginalised. Barriers may be overcome by providing a clinic located in a service that young people already attend. General practitioners have usually been trained in ‘youth friendly practice’ before providing the clinics, which are on a sessional basis and often in rotation with GPs from other divisions of general practice. In these projects, sessions are either bulk billed, or GPs are paid sessionally. Young people are often willing to consult a GP because they already know the centre staff.
Community organisations usually have a high awareness of issues involving their community and may bring a wealth of resources. Networking with local groups can also be a means of introducing your practice and the services you offer, expanding your patient base. It may be useful to have a system of service coordination for patients referred from your practice to community based programs. A staff member could be allocated to set up a system to monitor referrals.
Developing communication with your local health department, either directly or through your division of general practice, has significant advantages. For example, both the practice and health department are committed to the management and the prevention of a communicable disease. Practices and divisions can gain access to significant expertise in public health and prevention resources by connecting with state and territory public health or health promotion units.
Before you embark on a partnership or collaboration, consider:
- Discussing the proposal with your practice team
- Talk to another general practice or a division of general practice that has engaged in similar activities about their experience, the problems that occurred and how they measured their success
- Develop your own set of measures of success
- Ensure there is time to regularly review progress
- Identify what is working well, where there are difficulties and how the difficulties could be addressed
- Make adjustments where needed
- Take advantage of any quality assurance activities that will provide points for involvement and/or performance