Coordination of care in Australian mental health policy.
ABSTRACT To review Australian mental health initiatives involving coordination of care.
Commonwealth government websites were systematically searched for mental health policy documents. Database searches were also conducted using the terms 'coordination' or 'integration' and 'mental health' or 'mental illness' and 'Australia'. We assessed the extent to which informational, relational and management continuity have been addressed in three example programs.
The lack of definition of coordination at the policy level reduces opportunities for developing actionable and measurable programs. Of the 51 mental health initiatives identified, the three examples studied all demonstrated some use of the dimensions of continuity to facilitate coordination. However, problems with funding, implementation, evaluation and competing agendas between key stakeholders were barriers to improving coordination.
Coordination is possible and can improve both relationships between providers and care provided. However, clear leadership, governance and funding structures are needed to manage the challenges encountered, and evaluation using appropriate outcome measures, structured to assess the elements of continuity, is necessary to detect improvements in coordination.