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Putting prevention into practice (Green Book)

How to refer

Research shows that there are major barriers to GPs engaging with other agencies to provide prevention, primary health and community support services.190 These include:

  • GPs traditionally refer to an individual specialist who is known to them, rather than a service type
  • feedback on new referrals may take longer
  • increased time taken to identify new referral sources
  • the lack of up-to-date information on referral sources.

For patients, the concerns are:

  • referral to inappropriate or poor quality services
  • referral to services they find difficult to reach or to afford
  • poor communication with the patient
  • poor exchange of information between their GP and the service they are referred to.

Strategies that have worked for some divisions of general practice in addressing the above concerns include:

  • Creating a referral resource directory of quality services and supports that is easy to update
  • Identifying a set of central referral numbers (eg. The Cancer Council Australia) where the agency will identify the patient’s needs and refer on appropriately
  • Establishing or advocating for access to a range of health support services for your region on behalf of vulnerable groups of patients. A critical success factor is marketing the referral service so that GPs are aware of their availability.

Vietnamese Primary Health Care Network – the key to the future of primary health service delivery

The aim is to develop and implement a primary health care networking model that effectively links health and other services for Vietnamese people in a local government area. It was born out of a need to provide comprehensive and accessible primary health care to a large culturally and linguistically diverse group with complex socioeconomic and health issues, and a need to link service providers and clients to provide more effective and efficient health care.

Twenty Vietnamese GPs and six primary health care services are connected as part of the network, including speech pathology, hearing clinic, community counselling, community nursing, ambulatory care and dietetic/nutrition services. There are a range of partners in the network including GPs, the local health service, divisions of general practice, occupational therapists, pharmacists, multicultural health organisations, Vietnamese NGOs and associations, and community groups. Implementation strategies include case conferencing, care planning, establishing a referral system and communication strategy. Support for health service providers included:

  • an education plan targeting GPs and other service providers
  • a single contact point to advise/support in relation to direct client care and information flow
  • a core primary health care team to work with GPs
  • appropriate strategies to support Vietnamese GPs

Strategies to improve client access to health services included:

  • identifying access issues for Vietnamese clients and developing strategies to address them
  • single point of entry to the health service
  • timely referral to appropriate services
  • liaison and follow up for referrals with the health service
  • identifying key contacts among the partners to facilitate more timely access to information and services
  • increased use of care planning and case conferencing in recognition of the complex needs.

Hien Le, Vietnamese Primary Health Care Network, New South Wales