Healthpathways Melbourne's Work On Lower Back Pain Leads To End Of Year High

03 January, 2017

HealthPathways Melbourne, which is led by North Western Melbourne and Eastern Melbourne PHNs, has ended 2016 on a high thanks to an award linked to their work on the lower back pain pathway.

The team have been celebrating after The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and Merri Health’s Back Pain Assessment and Management Service (BAMS) won an award at the Victorian Public Healthcare Awards on 12 December 2016. 

BAMS is a collaborative initiative between rheumatology, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, physiotherapy, and chronic pain services at RMH partnering with its community health partners to provide an alternative care pathway for patients referred for specialist consultation for neck and lower back pain.

This service redesign has been sustained following an initial pilot, which also involved cohealth and was supported by North Western Melbourne PHN through its development of the pathway. The new model of care has also now been replicated at three acute and community partnership sites across Melbourne.

Before the BAMS program’s inception, spinal surgical waiting lists were long and a significant proportion of patients on those lists did not have conditions amenable to surgery.

Patients waited prolonged periods to see a specialist only to be told that their problem could not be solved by that service.

BAMS is able to triage every back and neck pain referral and recognise those patients likely to have a surgical condition and those needing medical care.

Patients needing medical care are seen within six to 12 weeks at one of two BAMS clinics in a community setting in which they receive comprehensive assessment and management by a rheumatologist and physiotherapist that is better suited to their needs.

At the surgical end, there has been an impressive reduction in waiting times for surgical patients to see spinal surgeons.

As the BAMS program work started, so too did work on the Lower Back Pain pathway for HealthPathways Melbourne.

The BAMS specialists provided meaningful input into the pathway’s content and the clinical working group discussion assisted the BAMS clinicians in understanding the primary care context as they planned their community clinic.

“I found it fortuitous timing that HealthPathways undertook the Lower Back Pain pathway at the same time as the Back Pain Clinic began," Rheumatologist and BAMS Director Dr John Moi said.

"There is synergy between the two projects. We have noticed that patients are now being screened properly for lower back pain and we are seeing an increase in the quality of referrals we are receiving in clinic.”