The "Patient Pathway" describes the patient experience of treatment, care, and support. It is the route that a patient starts from their first contact with a health professional. It includes a GP referral and continues through treatment. It also covers the period from entry into a hospital or a treatment centre, until the patient leaves. It includes the period after treatment, including followup and surveillance.
It is also one of the main tools used to manage the quality in healthcare. A clear and concise patient pathway standardises care, treatment, and support processes. A well developed patient pathway reduces variability in clinical practice. Patient pathways promote organised and efficient care based on evidence based practice. Patients report improved outcomes.
In New Zealand, the Faster Cancer Treatment programme promotes patient pathways. The Ministry of Health [1.] explains what this means for cancer patients. The Ministry's goal covers all clinical assessments, diagnostic tests and treatment. All three of these activities should be timely, responsive and seamless.
As you know, cancer patients can deal with up to 28 doctors and even more nurses. There are many other health professionals involved during treatment. For some folk, there is more than one district health board. This can be stressful and confusing.
The Ministry requires every district health board has at least one dedicated nurse. In busy district health boards there will be one nurse for a tumour stream. This nurse helps to coordinate care for patients. The nurse provides support throughout the course of the patient cancer journey. These nurses, called Cancer Care Coordinators, are an essential part of patient pathways.
You should have the contact details of your Cancer Care Coordinator. If not, contact your District Health Board for details. We have tried to list as many of these contacts as possible in our Groups, on our website. Please let us know if we have missed anyone.
Sometimes the patient pathway is less than smooth. For a whole variety of reasons, the journey is not timeless, responsive and seamless.
A key part of paving the patient pathway is good communication. In simple terms, communication should be clear, concise and kind. Currently the Northern Regional Alliance is developing a new tool for clinicians. This tool will help raise awareness of the importance of good interpersonal communication. This is an integral part of the patient pathway.
I am delighted to have worked with the Cancer Consumer Reference group to develop this tool. As soon as the final version is available I will share with you.