Integrated cancer care: best practice in post-pandemic Australia - InSight+
5 min read
There will be an urgent need for new models of care to address more complex cancer cases due to the impact of ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns, write Stephen Clarke, Nick Pavlakis, and Dasantha Jayamanne
THE COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the cancer care model in Australia, necessitated by the need to balance the risk of infection exposure against the optimal use of health system resources to maximise patient outcomes.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, we've seen disruptions to cancer screening, modifications to patient treatment schedules, and decline in cancer research and clinical trials, as well as widespread use of telehealth across the national health care system, the rapid uptake of in-home cancer care including intravenous chemotherapy administration, innovative adaptions to hospital infrastructure models, and shared follow-up care and survivorship care between GPs and specialists.

However, the real challenge will be implementing the lessons learnt over the past 2 years to provide patients with best-practice integrated cancer care.

Integrated care is not a new idea in Australia, having been a policy objective in all states and territories since a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreement in 1995. However, multidisciplinary, integrated care for cancer patients is now more important than ever in a changed Australian landscape. Throughout the course of the pandemic, we've seen the need for improved virtual communication (here and here), modifications to existing roles and responsibilities, greater focus on local considerations, heightened reassurance of quality and safety, and streamlined continuity of care across primary and secondary settings.

Coordination is at the centre of the integrated model, and the integration of primary into secondary care is fundamental to ensuring patient continuity of care. Primary health care providers play a vital role in helping patients access timely, appropriate cancer care. GPs provide comprehensive ongoing care and connect the community with the rest of the health care sector. Upwards of 85% of cancers are diagnosed following symptomatic presentation to a primary care provider.

Stephen Clarke
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