Individuals who undergo head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment require ongoing support from speech pathology (SP) services. However, there are recognised challenges accessing SP services in non-metropolitan areas where infrastructure, staffing and resources can be limited.
The primary aim was to examine the utility of a task-based capability framework, specific to SP cancer care services, through mapping the service capabilities of a group of regional/rural facilities within a cancer network. The secondary aim was to model potential consumer and service cost savings if local SP service capabilities are increased.
Methods and Procedures:
Four sites within a regional/rural service area participated. A mixed methods approach was used to examine the utility of applying a task-based capability framework (specific to adult cancer care) to map service capabilities. From that data, potential cost savings in travel for the health service (reimbursement) and people accessing HNC services (determined by accessing the closest service/s to meet their needs) from August 2016 to March 2020 was modelled.
While there were some individual differences, most tasks listed in the HNC clinical framework were able to be provided by the 4 participating non-metropolitan sites. Modelling the re-distribution of these SP HNC services away from the tertiary site to local sites (if these services were provided) for 44 regional people showed average potential savings of $22,278 for the health system and $31,994 for the patient.
Mapping HNC service capability using the clinical framework tool highlighted many aspects of HNC care could delivered at local SP sites. Enhancing local SP service capabilities in HNC care demonstrates potential cost savings for patients and services.