Outpatient services are generally provided in a clinic setting, where patients are not formally admitted to hospital and do not stay overnight. Patients can consult specialist medical practitioners, have tests or other procedures, or be provided with allied health, such as physiotherapy, psychologyor podiatry, or specialist nursing care.
NSW Health is the largest provider of outpatient services in Australia, with 11,000 outpatient service units providing 24 million clinical occasions of service in 2017/18 .
Outpatient care has a focus on prevention, and the adoption of clinical and technological advances reduce complications and allow patients to return home from hospital sooner. Outpatient care also reduces demand on other parts of the health system and is a critical link between hospital and primary health care systems.
Outpatient services often play an important ongoing role in a patient’s care journey because of the wide range of care they provide.
Outpatient Services Framework
The NSW Health Outpatient Services Framework outlines the principles, procedures and processes required for the effective management of NSW Health outpatient services. It will support health leaders to deliver:
- equitable, effective and sustainable services that are responsive to community need
- timely access to health services
- better integration of services across the system
- patient-centred care
- transparent and appropriate performance targets, informed by timely and reliable data.
Principles of the framework
The principles underpinning the Outpatient Services Framework are:
- a patient-centred approach to care is adopted, where each person is respected as an individual and not as a condition to be treated
- priority of access to outpatient services is based on clinical need
- the provision of care individual needs and circumstances, including their level of vulnerability and disadvantagehe provision of care individual needs and circumstances, including their level of vulnerability and disadvantage
- care is integrated across all service settings
- the outpatient service unit environment optimises the patient's experience
- timely and effective communication takes place between patients, carers and referrers
- innovation is encouraged to achieve better patient care outcomes
- where possible, patients are referred to outpatient service units at a facility near their place of residence, or at another District or Network facility as close as practicable to their place of residence
- outpatient services are delivered in collaboration with other human services and justice agencies where applicable to promote safety, welfare and wellbeingutpatient services are delivered in collaboration with other human services and justice agencies where applicable to promote safety, welfare and wellbeing
At the core of the Outpatient Services Framework is the principle of patient-centred care. While access to care in the outpatient setting is prioritised based on clinical need, the way in which the care itself is provided once this prioritisation has occurred must be respectful of, and responsive to, the preferences, needs and values of patients.