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Open Access Research article

Local co-ordination and case management can enhance Indigenous eye care – a qualitative study

Mitchell D Anjou*, Andrea I Boudville and Hugh R Taylor

Author Affiliations

Indigenous Eye Health Unit, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Level 5, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:255  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-255

Published: 3 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Indigenous adults suffer six times more blindness than other Australians but 94% of this vision loss is unnecessary being preventable or treatable. We have explored the barriers and solutions to improve Indigenous eye health and proposed significant system changes required to close the gap for Indigenous eye health. This paper aims to identify the local co-ordination and case management requirements necessary to improve eye care for Indigenous Australians.

Methods

A qualitative study, using semi-structured interviews, focus groups, stakeholder workshops and meetings was conducted in community, private practice, hospital, non-government organisation and government settings. Data were collected at 21 sites across Australia. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 289 people working in Indigenous health and eye care; focus group discussions with 81 community members; stakeholder workshops involving 86 individuals; and separate meetings with 75 people. 531 people participated in the consultations. Barriers and issues were identified through thematic analysis and policy solutions developed through iterative consultation.

Results

Poorly co-ordinated eye care services for Indigenous Australians are inefficient and costly and result in poorer outcomes for patients, communities and health care providers. Services are more effective where there is good co-ordination of services and case management of patients along the pathway of care. The establishment of clear pathways of care, development local and regional partnerships to manage services and service providers and the application of sufficient workforce with clear roles and responsibilities have the potential to achieve important improvements in eye care.

Conclusions

Co-ordination is a key to close the gap in eye care for Indigenous Australians. Properly co-ordinated care and support along the patient pathway through case management will save money by preventing dropout of patients who haven’t received treatment and a successfully functioning system will encourage more people to enter for care.

Keywords:
Indigenous Australians; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Eye care; Co-ordination; Case management