Ensuring optimal care for women with ovarian cancer

ovarian-ocp-pictureWomen with ovarian cancer are often diagnosed with advanced stages of the disease and need to be quickly referred to one of Victoria’s three specialist health services for treatment, based at Monash Health, Mercy Hospital for Women or The Women’s.

This reality, together with the need to improve the prospects of ovarian cancer patients has made aligning care with the Ovarian Cancer Optimal Care Pathway at a state-wide level a priority activity.

Optimal Care Pathways (OCP) set out best practice and evidence based care at key points along the patient pathway. This DHHS-funded project is supported by a steering committee made up of clinical leaders, consumers, Primary Healthcare Networks, Integrated Cancer Services and Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Collecting data that shows current patterns of care in Victoria is the first task of this project.

Although nearly half of surgical and chemotherapy admissions for ovarian cancer treatment are to private health services, the initial focus of this work is in the public sector. Using the framework of the OCPs, the steering committee are identifying and prioritising opportunities for improvement. SMICS has been working with Monash Health personnel to gather data and prepare a service map.

Looking for ways to improve early recognition of cancer symptoms and support general practitioners to consider and exclude ovarian cancer early is one of the emerging themes. A survey done by Ovarian Cancer Australia in 2015 showed that 47% of women required two or more visits to her GP before ovarian cancer was considered. 21% required three or more.

Another emerging theme is treatment planning by a multidisciplinary team (MDT). Supported by the three specialist centres and SMICS staff, data are being collected to determine why some women have a MDT plan developed before treatment and why others do not.

Coordination of care and ensuring effective communication are issues that are also being considered in this work. Current patterns show that a centralised model for surgical treatment has developed. 80% of all ovarian cancer surgical admissions occur in one of nine metropolitan public and private health services. This means that some women will travel to a specialist hospital for part of her care. It is important for a woman to receive timely and accurate information about her diagnosis and treatment.

Evidence also suggests improved outcomes for women whose treatment is managed by a sub-specialist gynaecological oncologist.

If you are interested in more information about the ovarian cancer Optimal Care Pathway, contact carmel.vermeltfoort@austin.org.au.