Continuity of care for patients with chronic conditions from rural or remote Australia: A systematic review
Chronic health conditions represent the leading cause of death and disability in Australia.1
Adverse health outcomes, including premature death and poor health due to illness, injury and disability, resulting from chronic conditions are higher for rural and remote Australians, as compared with metropolitan Australians.2, 3
Individuals with chronic health conditions typically interact with multiple health care service providers.4 Contemporary research has shown that patients benefit from the collaboration between health professionals who are involved in the treatment or management of their health.5 Such collaboration is referred to as “continuity of care” and requires an effective coordination of services and information sharing between health care professionals.6, 7
In practice, there is a vast disparity between the continuity of care experience of rural and metropolitan patients in Australia, with information sharing between health care professionals typically reduced as remoteness increases.8 Specifically, primary care providers for rural patients are typically not informed of supplementary care requirements by other medical professionals following hospital admission or consultation with a specialist—particularly when treated in metropolitan areas.8
In order to address the disparity in the provision of health care between metropolitan and rural patients, the Australian Government developed the National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health, aimed at improving the integration and coordination of care between the rural health providers.9 It is important to understand the current experience of rural and remote patients’ interaction with health care professionals and associated facilitators and barriers to achieving a positive continuity of care outcome.
This systematic review synthesises empirical scientific literature to inform practical advancements and improved health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions living in regional, rural and remote Australia.