(Marni D Brownell et al. 2017)
Improving patient care experience is essential
Healthcare is delivered in a demanding and complex health system where treatment of the patient’s condition is the primary focus. There are however some fundamental ways in which the health system can better meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Taking a person-centred approach (i.e. looking at the whole person) will not only ethically allow patients to be directly involved and empowered in their care, but will take into account the patient’s cultural and individual needs, preferences, beliefs, values as well as their comfort and surroundings. This approach will improve the patient’s experience and health outcomes, and benefit health services clinically and organisationally. Access to healthcare continues to remain a significant problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Before even accessing the health system, the health of many individuals and families is already compromised on a daily basis due to a number of structural and social factors:
- living in regional and remote communities which are areas of most socioeconomic disadvantage and where the greatest burden of disease exists due to lack of access to preventative or illness management services
- living in major cities/urban communities in areas of greatest disadvantage
- low socio-economic status and environmental and socio-political factors
- a high prevalence of health risk factors.
From a service provision perspective, the quality and level of healthcare can be influenced by:
- performance gaps of the health system (including access) in addressing health needs
- cultural incompetence (which research demonstrates is linked to risks and poor quality health outcomes)
- communication barriers (which research demonstrates may lead to adverse events and poor quality of care).