The ‘working together’ model of care, linking practitioners with cultural knowledge is making waves in the field of acute coronary syndrome among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, according to a report published in the latest issue of the AHHA’s academic journal, The Australian Health Review.
The report, “Implementing a working together model for Aboriginal patients with acute coronary syndrome: an Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer and a specialist cardiac nurse working together to improve hospital care” details how the use of a culturally-aware Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer (AHLO) in partnership with a specialist cardiac nurse was able to facilitate better outcomes for Aboriginal patients.
According to the report, cardiovascular disease is a significant contributor to the difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
Contributing to the disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is the lack of access to culturally appropriate hospital cardiac care.
The report, suggests that to improve Aboriginal patients’ experience, hospitals should provide a culturally safe environment. This is where the AHLO proves to be invaluable.
“AHLOs provide reassurance to Aboriginal patients through direct contact and help to provide a culturally safe space. They are crucial in supporting the families of Aboriginal patients and play a key role in planning for admission and discharge, especially with rural or remote patients admitted to metropolitan hospitals,” said report author, Karen Daws.
The report states that while Aboriginal patients admitted to hospital are sometimes referred to cardiac rehabilitation services, it is very rare, around 15% of the time, that patients actually attend the service.
Through the implementation of an AHLO, thirteen patients were referred to cardiac rehabilitation and eight attended, with another two being referred to heart failure programs.
“This paper shows the important role Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers play in breaking down any cultural barriers that may exist between patient and specialist. Institutions such as hospitals may be associated with negative experiences, which results in poor treatment plans and ultimately impacts on Aboriginal patients’ uptake of secondary prevention services,” said AHHA Chief Executive, Alison Verhoeven.
‘Through the use of liaison staff with appropriate cultural competencies, cultural differences are able to be embraced and factored in to healthcare, to deliver the best possible outcome for patients,” said Ms. Verhoeven.
It is clear that in instances where cultural barriers present potential access blockers to best-practice healthcare, care coordination such as the good working relationships between mainstream and specialist service providers and AHLOs alleviates the burden on both patient and clinician alike.
For more information on the AHHA, visit http://ahha.asn.au.The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.
 Paper authored by Karen Daws, Amanda Punch, Michelle Winters, Sonia Posenelli, John Willis, Andrew MacIsaac, Muhammad Aziz Rahman and Linda Worrall-Carter.
Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association
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