In an unprecedented move, a unique collaboration of 15 Australian health organisations1 has come together to actively support those living with chronic health conditions to manage and monitor their health, during the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimise the post COVID-19 community health legacy.
The Continuity of Care Collaboration (CCC) is an Australian first national communication collaboration of Peak Bodies, Industry and Healthcare Organisations coming together to stress the importance for people to continue monitoring their health and maintaining their regular care. The CCC represents the broad healthcare ecosystem, including physicians, nurses and patient organisations.
The group formed with mounting concerns that Australians are not maintaining their regular general practice or other healthcare visits for existing chronic conditions and/or putting off seeing their doctor to get a test, investigation, or immunisation due to fears of contracting COVID-19 or burdening the health system.
The Collaboration believes patient safety and continuity of care has never been more important, particularly for those patients who have chronic and complex diseases or conditions, vulnerable populations, the elderly and immunocompromised.
“A few weeks ago, we identified that laboratory testing had declined by 40% resulting in 60,000 patients not getting their regular pathology or diagnostic testing to manage or diagnose conditions,” said John Crothers, Chair of Pathology Awareness Australia and one of the founders of the CCC. “This combined with a drop in people presenting for general practice appointments is an indicator that people are not seeking expert medical advice and maintaining their regular health routines”.
The aim of the CCC is for each of the 15 organisations to communicate consistently the importance of urging people to keep a close watch on their ongoing health care and maintenance, and to not allow the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to prevent crucial healthcare interactions such as seeing your general practice team, allied health professional or receiving important tests. The CCC will engage with Federal and State Governments and Departments of Health to keep patients safe during COVID-19 whilst moving the continuity of care agenda forward.
Continuity of care consists of 7 key areas and these include; (1) Prevention; (2) Chronic Disease Management; (3) Vaccination; (4) Cancer Screening; (5) Adherence to Medicines; (6) Acute Care Management; and (7) Pathology Testing.
“The Australian people have done an outstanding job by staying home to save lives,” says Leanne Wells, CEO of Consumers Health Forum. “The Federal Government and various healthcare professional organisations have worked together to enable patients to receive care by minimising the risks of acquiring COVID-19 through implementing strategies such as Telehealth, e-prescribing of medicines and home delivery of medicines.”
The RACGP launched on the 26th April, their new campaign and website Expert Advice Matters, advocating for people to continue to seek Expert GP advice and how new Telehealth Tools, such as telephone and video services are keeping people connected and safe.
“We all have a responsibility to keep people safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Elizabeth de Somer, CEO of Medicines Australia. “Patients need to continue with their regular GP visits, pathology testing, vaccinations and taking medications, as we want to ensure that peoples’ health is managed not only for now but also in the long-term.”
The CCC will continue to monitor the situation closely and are today releasing a consumer survey to gauge barriers to access and consumer sentiment, with a focus on ensuring continuity of care.
1 The organisations included in the CCC are: Pathology Awareness Australia, Australian Diabetes Society, RACGP, National Rural Health Alliance, Australian Primary Health Nurses Association, Consumers Health Forum, Heart Foundation, Allied Health Professions Australia, Medicines Australia, Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia, Patient Voice Initiative, Australian Patients Association, Jean Hailes Foundation, Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia