Pathway showing the way – caring for patients with disabilities

The WA HealthPathways team’s work on the Care of Patients with Disabilities pathway has been highlighted as a major achievement within the entire HealthPathways community, across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

HealthPathways WA collaborated with individuals with disabilities and their carers, the WA Disability Health Network, and numerous health professionals to develop the pathway.

People with disabilities can have complex needs with many aspects to assess and manage. The Care of Patients with Disabilities pathway gives WA GPs an easy-to-follow framework for aspects to consider when assessing and managing the care of people with disabilities, and links to relevant supports.

When developing the pathway, the team drew on lived experience and existing connections.

Senior Clinical Editor and Regional Group Clinical Advisor at HealthPathways WA, Dr Sue Jackson, said three people within the HealthPathways team have children with disabilities.

“We were already involved with local disability networks, and we knew from both feedback and our own experience in general practice how hard it can be to navigate the health system. Either personally or through family members, we know what it’s like to be bounced around.

“Our knowledge of the challenges and links to the disability sector gave us the motivation to start the project and broaden the focus beyond the clinical to one that takes in the needs of the whole person.

“Our stakeholders want that holistic view, where GPs support people with disabilities based on what they need overall.

“This approach helps a practitioner identify what services will benefit a person and leads to better outcomes for a person through the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme),” she said.

In development of the Pathway, the team worked with a large and diverse stakeholder group, to bring a broader perspective to the pathway.

HealthPathways WA Team Leader, Stef Colquhoun, said connecting widely has many benefits.

“The team ran a series of stakeholder workshops, with around 50 consumers, families and subject matter experts involved. Local disability network members also assisted with reviewing drafts of the pathway content, which were widely shared,” she said.

Despite not being able to hold a full launch, it’s clear the pathway is already having an influence in the wider local health community.

“This pathway has resulted in strengthened relationships between our HealthPathways team and other stakeholders in the disability sector.

“Right from the beginning, we were aware that this pathway was only part of a bigger suite. As soon as we’d finished the disability pathway, the stakeholder group were asking, now what about intellectual disability?” Sue said.

Next steps

The HealthPathways WA team are now ready to put what they have learned into practice with future pathways to be developed.

“We’re getting more consistency across the suite of pathways, and another clinical editor in the team has recently taken a similar workshop approach to developing a transgender and gender diverse health pathway, which is an exciting development,” Stef said.

To find out more about the Western Australia Care of Patients with Disabilities pathway or HealthPathways in Western Australia, please email 

HealthPathways WA is administered by WA Primary Health Alliance.

The original article appeared on HealthPathways Community.