eAlert: Addressing the barriers to COVID-19 testing

Queensland’s best defences against a sustained outbreak of COVID-19 via community transmission are quarantine, border controls, testing and contact tracing.

Ahead of reports of new cases of COVID-19 in Brisbane this week, 21 consumers had already joined forces with Department and health staff, Queenslanders with Disability Network and Palliative Care Queensland at a Consumer Conversation on Tuesday to share their views on the top barriers to testing and what can be done to address these and encourage more people to get tested.

During the conversation, it was clear that consumers are looking for a clear and unambiguous testing pathway which is convenient, supportive, nuanced and needs-focused. Yet fear, uncertainty, confusion, misinterpretation and complacency are rife.

Specifically, consumers identified the following ongoing barriers to testing:

  • Difficulty interpreting advice about symptoms
  • Unclear testing pathways
  • The logistics of having a test and managing the consequences are too complicated and overwhelming
  • The need to self-isolate (for several days in rural areas) while awaiting results
  • Pain and trauma associated with testing
  • Perceived lack of social responsibility amongst certain groups of people
  • Fear of stigma and retribution if people do test positive

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eAlert: New grant funding underpins our consumer-focused COVID initiatives

New grant funding underpins our consumer-focused COVID-19 initiatives​

Health Consumers Queensland has been successful in securing grant funding from Queensland Health to support our continued COVID-19 service provision. As one of more than 130 community-based health service groups across Queensland sharing in more than $30 million, the grant will help Health Consumers Queensland to continue the delivery of a number of consumer-focused initiatives.

This additional funding will support:

  • continued consultation with consumers on planning for continued and future pandemic situations
  • a new project to engage with young health consumers about their experiences during COVID-19 pandemic (check out the
  • opportunity to join our Youth Reference Group in this eAlert​)
  • evaluation of the strong engagement approach taken by Health Consumers Queensland and Queensland Health during COVID-19.

We are so pleased to be able to continue to support the vital voice of consumers during this time.​

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Consumer experiences of health services as COVID-19 restrictions ease

In late April 2020, Health Consumers Queensland asked consumers about their experiences of healthcare during the very first easing of the COVID-19 lockdown. Procedures that had been delayed or cancelled were restarting, but consumers shared that they were unsure about accessing care safely. Many reported feeling uncertain and confused about when, if and how they could have their healthcare needs met.

Ten weeks later in Queensland, restrictions have eased significantly and healthcare services are beginning to return to almost full operation. At the same time, parts of Victoria have gone back into lockdown and parts of NSW are seeing an increase in positive testing results, with community spread in both states. Against these opposing backgrounds, Health Consumers Queensland asked 28 consumers and consumers representatives from our COVID-19 Community of Interest, Health Consumers Queensland’s Consumer Advisory Group, the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland, Primary Health Networks and Statewide Clinical Networks steering committees about their current experiences of health care.
Consumers were asked:

  1. If you were waiting for treatment that was delayed due to the pandemic, have you received updates on when that treatment will be available to you?
  2. Who provided you with care during the pandemic?
  3. Are you getting the information now that you need to support you, such as information about how your health service is being kept COVID-19 safe, or alternative ways of receiving care?
  4. Every Hospital and Health Service is responsible for developing their own plan to re-open services. Have you been involved as a consumer rep in these plans for your local HHS?

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eAlert: Consumer Conversations are back!

Consumer Conversations are back and they’re better than ever!

Consumer Conversations have made a welcome return this week and it was wonderful to see you all again on Zoom on Tuesday.

For this series, we have brought together our experienced and emerging consumer groups so the COVID-19 Community of Interest has joined up with the Health Consumers Queensland’s Consumer Advisory Group, the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland, the Primary Health Networks and the consumers who sit on Statewide Clinical Networks.

Conversations will now be held every fortnight rather than once a week.

These valuable sessions will continue to provide consumers the opportunity to share your lived experience on topical health issues with the group and with Queensland Health. In response to your helpful feedback, we’ve also added a short informative presentation at the beginning of each session to enable you to build your skills and knowledge around consumer engagement.

This week we explored: How to tell your story with impact. Many people become active as health consumers due to a significant experience with the health system. Telling the story of your healthcare journey effectively can be a powerful tool in your consumer kit.

We hope you enjoy this new format and please continue to share your feedback with us as the series continues.

If you’d like to join the Consumer Conversations, please register here. The next presentation will focus on some tips and strategies that help to communicate your message with impact.

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eAlert – Looking Back: How effective was Queensland’s COVID-19 response?

As we mentioned in last week’s eAlert, in the most recent Consumer Conversation we asked consumers for their reaction to the COVID-19 response from Queensland Health, and from us, Health Consumers Queensland. We were very pleased to hear that consumers were satisfied with Queensland Health’s response. Particularly compared to other states, consumers felt that Queensland Health has done very well to involve consumers to such a high degree, to listen and act on their views and concerns. Suggestions for improvement included greater attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, greater reach into the regions, and better communication and especially with culturally and linguistically diverse people and communities.

Consumers were overwhelmingly positive about the COVID-19 response from Health Consumers Queensland, with many feeling that the COVID-19 Community of Interest gave consumers the opportunity to have their voices heard, and gave them the information they needed to support themselves, their families and their communities. Importantly, consumers saw the influence they had on Queensland Health and were mindful of how unique that is in Australia.

 

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Snapshot of Qld’s COVID Response

By acting swiftly at the onset of COVID-19, Health Consumers Queensland was able to pivot our work to support consumers and the health system to collaborate on solutions to challenges not seen before. This early action has played a key role in ensuring a consumer-centred public health system response to COVID-19.

Through our work, Queensland Health has been able to hear from hundreds of Queenslanders with significant health needs and use that intelligence to form a more wide-reaching response than otherwise possible. You can read the big picture summary of our collaboration here.

Consumers routinely identified early key issues for the community, which we were able to feed through to the health system. This enabled the system to respond in the knowledge of consumer insights and expectations. You can read the full summary of all the themes covered by consumers during this time here.

You can also read the full summary of consumers’ reflections on the response to the pandemic, including how both Queensland Health and this organisation can continue to improve, in our latest Issues Paper.

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Looking Back: How effective has the Queensland COVID-19 response been?

We asked consumers for their reaction to the COVID-19 response from Queensland Health, and from us, Health Consumers Queensland. We were very pleased to hear that consumers were impressed with Queensland Health’s response. Particularly compared to other states, consumers felt that Queensland Health has done very well to involve consumers to such a high degree, to listen and act on their views and concerns. Suggestions for improvement included greater attention to the needs of vulnerable groups, great reach into the regions, and better communication.

Consumers were overwhelmingly positive about the COVID-19 response from Health Consumers Queensland, with many feeling that the COVID-19 Community of Interest gave consumers the opportunity to have their voices heard, and gave them the information they needed to support themselves, their families and their communities. More importantly, consumers saw the influence they had on Queensland Health and were mindful of how unique that is in Australia.

Read the Issues Paper >

Consumer Conversations are impetus for major new national research study

Health Consumers Queensland is partnering with Griffith University in a new national consumer-led research study looking at people’s attitudes and resulting behaviours to the government’s containment measures imposed from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Take part in the survey now.

Dr Joan Carlini, who is leading the study, is a Lecturer in Marketing and Discipline Leader at Griffith Business School specialising in the intersection of business, government and society with a particular focus on consumer behaviour. She is also Chair of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service Consumer Advisory Group and a long-standing member of Health Consumers Queensland’s state-wide consumer network.

She said, “This is a unique study because it has been guided by Health Consumers Queensland’s Consumer Conversations. In fact, the story behind this research is as powerful as the research itself. I have been attending Health Consumers Queensland’s weekly COVID-19 Consumer Conversations since the start (wearing my non-expert health consumer hat) and I was struck by the diversity of views and experiences that were shared in this forum. They gave me an insight into what people from all walks of life were grappling with as restrictions tightened. I also realised that there was a huge gap between what was being said by health consumers and what I was hearing on mainstream media and academic forums I’ve also been attending.

The circumstances of this particular pandemic are unprecedented and this project offers researchers a rare opportunity to survey a vast cross-section of people across Australia and seek to understand a person’s individual circumstances and their sense of personal threat of COVID-19, and link it to their actual behaviours.”
 
Joan has assembled a research team which includes experts from infection diseases, social marketing, consumer behaviour and health consumer engagement to tackle this lack of access to ‘’hard to reach’’ voices which is a substantial concern for public health. It is hoped that the research will:

  • provide an explanatory framework for current individual behaviours and influencers
  •  identify groups of people who have found it difficult to comply with current restrictions thus enabling information, influencers and communications to more effectively target these audiences
  • provide policy makers with evidence for future decisions about reducing transmission during a pandemic.

Melissa Fox, CEO of Health Consumers Queensland said, “This project is a unique example of consumer-led and co-produced research.  Through our COVID-19 Consumer Conversations, the consumer input and lived experience expertise has laid the foundation for a new way of thinking about this pandemic. We’re delighted to partner with Joan and Griffith University to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are supported and protected as we all continue to respond to COVID-19, and plan the response to future pandemics.

This project is about finding patterns across society and its success depends on large numbers of people across all communities in Australia taking part.

Thank you for finding 20 minutes to fill in the survey and please do share it with your networks, family, friends and colleagues.”