Transforming outpatient services in Tasmania
Last year, a four-year strategy was launched to transform outpatient services to better serve the Tasmanian community, which seeks to shorten wait times, improve communication, and modernise and streamline service delivery.
As part of this, a new Outpatient Central Services team was established as a hub to improve communication between Tasmanian patients and outpatient clinics statewide. This initiative has been highly successful and is helping to improve patient experience and health outcomes.
Outpatient Central Services was formally established in November 2022 and moved to a new premises at Cambridge Park earlier this year. This team communicates with Tasmanian patients, including to confirm appointments and register any cancellations from patients and ensure any cancelled appointments can be filled by another patient on the waiting list.
The work of the Outpatient Central Services team at Cambridge Park is vital to ensuring an increased capacity to deliver health services to Tasmanians.
The health system schedules more than 50,000 outpatient appointments per month on average statewide, and historically, up to 1 in 10 appointments have gone unattended. There has been improvement over the past year, with 7.8 per cent of appointments going unattended.
That is why the work of the Outpatient Central Services team is so important to communicate with patients about their appointments, ensuring cancellations are known in advance and the appointment can be utilised for another patient.
Each day, the team of operators make and receive an average total of about 1000 calls and register about 200 referrals.
This in turn improves patient experience and health outcomes and also frees up more frontline health staff to focus on delivering care to patients, rather than spending unnecessary time on administrative tasks.
The important work of the Outpatient Central Services team closely aligns with the successful eReferrals program, which has been implemented statewide as part of the Digital Health Transformation program. General practitioners can now send an eReferral instantly for an outpatient appointment, where it is triaged and processed without the need to print, scan or fax referral forms.
The Outpatient Central Services team registers referrals and ensures they are promptly followed up. More than 26,000 eReferrals have been received to Tasmanian public outpatient services since the system was implemented earlier this year, with very strong take-up among Tasmanian general practices.