SEAM—improving the quality of palliative care in regional Toowoomba, Australia: lessons learned

Elizabeth Buikstra, Susanne Pearce, Desley Hegney, Tony Fallon
Rural and Remote Health 2006, 6 (1): 415

INTRODUCTION: The proliferation of professional palliative care services in recent years has increased access for people with palliative care needs; however, gaps in services continue to exist, particularly in rural and remote areas of Australia. In order to address one gap in rural health service delivery, the Support, Education, Assessment, and Monitoring (SEAM) Service for regional and rural people in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, was introduced. This new model of service delivery aimed to provide palliative services to patients and their families who live in the regional city of Toowoomba and its rural catchment area. It also aimed to facilitate education, support and networking among health-care professionals, particularly general practitioners and nurses employed in general practice (practice nurses).

METHOD: The evaluation involved twenty face-to-face interviews with a variety of health professionals who had contact with the SEAM service from June 2003 to June 2004. Qualitative data analysis of the transcribed interviews provided the basis for the evaluation. The emergent themes regarding the SEAM service included: satisfaction and benefit of the SEAM service; knowledge of and contact with the SEAM service; the SEAM role; and expansion of the role.

RESULTS: The data indicate that the majority of health professionals who had contact with the SEAM service were satisfied with the service and found it to be of benefit to them and their clients. Participants commented on the extensive networking and support work established by the SEAM nurse with other health service providers. Difficulties experienced with the SEAM service included poor utilisation by GPs and, therefore, clients in need of palliative support. This was predominately due to lack of knowledge of the service as well as limited understanding of the SEAM nurse role.

CONCLUSION: The SEAM service has resulted in increased links between health professionals providing palliative care to rural clients. The most successful strategy was the use of multidisciplinary case conferencing which not only built links among health professionals caring for individual clients, but also resulted in improved care for those clients. As a result of better integration and communication, palliative care services to rural people have been improved. However, with regard to the delivery of direct patient care, or in the support of GPs for the management of palliative care patients, it was apparent that the service did not meet its objectives. The lack of use by GPs and patients appears to be related to a lack of awareness of the existence of the service. A positive outcome of this poor utilisation is, however, that the model has allowed the identification of factors that work as barriers to GPs and client/family utilisation of rural palliative care services.

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