If you live in a remote or regional area, getting to the doctor is often substantially more arduous than a quick drive down the road.
Magnify the complication and expand the timeframe should medical tests be required and by the time treatment is considered, prescribed and dispensed the entire undertaking becomes unwieldy, inconvenient and often, sadly, ignored.
Researchers at the Flinders International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing are making multiple trips and long wait times for remote and regional health care users a thing of the past with innovative research that leads to local programs that ease the burden of managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and, in so doing, save lives.
Rural and remote disadvantage is often reflected in poorer standards of general services and health infrastructure including pathology services.
Point-of-care testing (POCT) allows pathology testing to be conducted during a patient visit with results immediately available for patient care. POCT has a particular niche in rural and remote communities where access to mainstream laboratory services is generally poor, there are long delays in transporting pathology samples to laboratories, turnaround time for delivery of test results back to the local health service may be slow, and patient loss to follow-up is high.
The way in which pathology services for diabetes management are delivered within Australian Aboriginal Medical Services has changed dramatically and permanently since the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing’s introduction of the Quality Assurance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Services Program (QAAMS).
The QAAMS Program is an outstanding example of the translation of innovative research into life-changing positive impact. It provides a culturally safe and clinically effective diabetes management service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
With diabetes rates of up to 40% in Indigenous communities and 80% of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural and remote communities, the impact of diabetes and its principal complication – renal disease - socially, culturally and personally, is significant.
Commencing as a pilot program in 45 remote Aboriginal communities in 1999, the Flinders’ QAAMS Program is now operating at over 190 sites in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services across Australia. Recognising the need for services to be culturally appropriate and accessible, QAAMS has developed into an award-winning program.
QAAMS equips Aboriginal health workers with vital skills and essential resources to affect change. POCT for HbA1c and urine ACR has become embedded as standard clinical practice for the care and management of Indigenous diabetes patients.
Training and supporting local Aboriginal health workers as active participants in the Program has provided a sense of empowerment and assisted in managing a significant chronic health risk to Aboriginal people.
The QAAMS Program has received national and international recognition. The Australian Government, who funds the Program, has commissioned two independent evaluations, the most recent of which concluded: “All sources of evidence suggest the QAAMS Program is meeting best practice standards in the areas of Indigenous healthcare, diabetes management and point of care testing" and “QAAMS is one of the few programs to successfully navigate the cultural complexities and potential pitfalls of chronic disease management in Indigenous communities”.
The Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing has now developed an international model for diabetes point-of-care testing.
Based on the successful QAAMS Program, the ACE (Analytical and Clinical Excellence) Program incorporates community engagement and empowerment through training local health professionals to perform point-of-care testing.
The culturally effective program is now improving health outcomes in remote and regional communities in countries as diverse as Canada, South Africa, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Western Samoa.
For more information contact the Flinders University International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing