About Optimal Care Pathways

Seven key principles underpin the guidance provided in the OCPs: patient-centred care, safe and quality care, multidisciplinary care, supportive care, care coordination, communication, and research and clinical trials. These principles remain central to the delivery of quality care throughout the cancer continuum and always put people affected by cancer at the centre of care.

OCPs have been developed for a range of cancers as well as a dedicated Optimal care pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer that complements the cancer-specific OCPs, focusing on the aspects of the care pathway that need to be responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer. Similarly, there is an Optimal care pathway for adolescents and young adults with cancer.

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How Optimal Care Pathways improve cancer outcomes

The OCPs assist in achieving world-class health systems, and promote consistent delivery of quality cancer care, leading to improved outcomes by:

  • identifying gaps in current cancer services
  • addressing barriers and variations to accessing quality care
  • supporting culturally appropriate and responsive healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and members of other priority population groups with cancer
  • bringing about quality improvement initiatives
  • improving the way services are planned and coordinated.

Adherence to the OCPs leads to early diagnosis, timely provision of care and treatment, and improved cancer outcomes and survival. The expert-informed timeframes for care and treatment outlined in the OCPs help health services plan care delivery to meet the expectations of people affected by cancer.

The principles underpinning the OCPs are essential to achieving optimal cancer care, experience, and outcomes. They provide the support people need to be informed and involved in decisions throughout their cancer experience, according to their preferences, needs and values, and promote supportive care as a standard of care.

Cancer care should be provided in a systematic, connected, and timely way. As outlined in the OCPs, this is the responsibility of every health professional—both clinical and non-clinical.

Similarly, everyone involved in the care and treatment of people affected by cancer is responsible for ensuring the communication needs of people with cancer, their families, and carers are met.

In striving for the best cancer experience and outcomes, the OCPs encourage treating clinicians and multidisciplinary teams to seek out clinical trials that may be suitable for people affected by cancer. OCPs additionally advocate for early referral to survivorship care and palliative care services, and improving quality of life and end-of-life experience for people with cancer, as well as their families and carers.

The Quick Reference Guides and Guides to Best Cancer Care are tools that facilitate conversations between people affected by cancer and their health professionals to ensure optimal care is being provided. The guides provide a summary of the care that is expected at each step of the pathway, including optimal timeframes for tests and treatments.

Service improvement

OCPs can be used as a standard from which to evaluate cancer care provision; to examine the relationship between care alignment with the OCPs and clinical outcomes, and evaluate the impact of policy implementation on quality of care and reduction of unwarranted variation in cancer outcomes.[168]

Integrating OCPs as routine cancer care using a monitoring and evaluation system, that links the implementation of OCPs to patient outcomes and experience, is critical to evidencing and realising coordinated, data-driven, high-quality health service systems. A system for OCPs to be measurable by identifying and tracking core elements across specific cancer types, particularly those elements linked with improved clinical outcomes such as quality of care, patient experience, and survival, is warranted.[169]