A stepped approach to care

Made possible with your support, the Stepped Care Approach to Developmental Care initiative, also known as Stepped Care, is an innovative new model of triage for children with developmental concerns. 

The Stepped Care project has been designed to streamline and coordinate care for patients who are referred with a concern about their development. The project works with clinicians both within the RCH and across the community. Launched in 2019, the program is made possible thanks to philanthropic funding including the generosity of bequest donors.

“Over 3,000 children are referred to the RCH each year with developmental concerns, meaning concerns about their speech, behaviour, movement or learning. We found that the systems of referral and triage were not helping to easily identify or confirm if a child was experiencing developmental difficulties,” said Bernadette O’Connor, Director of Allied Health.

Bernadette explained that in the old system, children and their families would go down a complex pathway that meant it was not uncommon to take upwards of two years for the child to be connected to the required intervention services or even have their first appointment.

In comparison, the updated Stepped Care Approach means that any referrals to the hospital from either internal or external clinicians are funnelled through a central point to experienced clinicians, allowing a more streamlined approach.

The model uses a number of ‘steps’ that a young person may go through which include eligibility, interview and investigate, care conference and intake appointment.

“We ensure that any referral during the process is directed with purpose, meaning families may be redirected with additional information for the referring GP and family about where another appropriate service might be found for that child,” said Bernadette.

Within two short years since the project’s establishment, the Stepped Care team have already seen some promising results. As a result of the project, there has been improved rates of purposeful redirection to more appropriate local services, reduced waiting time in clinics that see children with developmental concerns, a reduction in the number of assessment appointments required with a paediatrician and a reduction in time taken to triage the referrals.

As a strong advocate for services that enhance the life prospects of children who experience disadvantage and developmental challenges, Bernadette says that initiatives and research like Stepped Care are made possible thanks to philanthropy like bequests and endowments.

“I cannot overstate the significance of, and the difference that philanthropic donations have made to Allied Health services, and as such, the impact that Allied Health has had, and will continue to have in the future.”