Optimal Care Pathways: a national policy to improve quality of cancer care and address inequalities in cancer outcomes

While Australia ranks highly in terms of cancer survival internationally, disparities in outcomes exist within the nation. To address this issue, Optimal Care Pathways (OCPs) based on core principles, evidence and best-practice recommendations were developed. This paper discusses the potential value of OCPs, its implementation strategy and early evidence of its impact in Australia. Australia’s OCPs addresses the entire pathway from prevention to survivorship and end of life. In 2014-2015, three resources were developed for each tumour-specific OCP: 1) detailed pathway documents for healthcare service providers, 2) a two-page quick reference guide for the primary care sector and 3) a ‘What to expect’ guide for consumers. Evaluation of OCP implementation projects, such as I-PACED, which reached over 1000 primary care clinicians to increase awareness around lung and colorectal cancer, showed improved knowledge, awareness. Positive impacts of OCPs were also found on care quality and cancer survival. As early evidence demonstrates the positive impact of OCPs, future research should monitor and facilitate the ongoing assessment of their impact. More so, in low- and middle-income countries, the principles of OCP development and implementation has the potential to improve a country’s cancer outcomes.

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I-PACED Project

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