Untimely and inappropriate referrals have been found to be a significant contributor to suboptimal timeliness of cancer care. Previous studies have identified the referral pathway as a critical ‘bottleneck’ in achieving cancer care in line with best practice including Optimal Care Pathways. However identifying clear information about who to refer to and what test to order in regional Victoria has proven to be complex. In order to provide prompt decision support to General practitioners (GPs) and enhance collaborative engagement with Medical Oncologists, the Victorian Integrated Cancer Service in the Loddon Mallee region developed a telephone line connecting the GP directly to the on-call medical oncologist to provide localised referral advice. They also accessed local treatment data to create a GP referral guide with information about when and how to refer patients locally and/or to Melbourne services.
After distributing more than 400 promotional postcards to GPs the hotline attracted calls from both metropolitan and regional Victoria over its first 12 months. Clinician surveys reveals several clear examples of improved timeliness and quality of care. Meanwhile, the GP referral guide had 50 downloads within its first weeks of operation, and continues to be actively promoted. The benefits realised have allowed the intervention to be embedded as ‘business as usual’ within the Bendigo Cancer Centre and resourced with appropriate ongoing marketing and infrastructure support from key stakeholders.