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heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

The Lighthouse Hospital Project: The story so far

The project aims to reduce inequalities in healthcare, with a focus on cardiac care and patient outcomes.

Key takeaways

  • The Lighthouse Hospital Project began in 2012 and was piloted in eight hospitals, before expanding in 2017 
  • The Lighthouse Toolkit helps hospitals provide culturally appropriate and clinically competent care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their families during and beyond their hospital experience 
  • This program contributes to reducing inequalities in cardiac care and patient outcomes for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. 
6 min read

Key initiatives to improve heart health  

Beginning in 2012, the Lighthouse Hospital Project identified a toolkit that enables hospitals to provide exemplary care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. The project aims to reduce inequalities in healthcare, with a focus on cardiac care and patient outcomes. The key initiatives included:
  • Expand and optimise the Aboriginal health workforce in participating hospitals 
  • Improve identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients 
  • Engage in effective partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities 
  • Fostering of champions on clinical staff 
  • The commitment to delivering patient-centred care, and 
  • Using newer technologies to improve communication.  

The Lighthouse Toolkit  

The Lighthouse Toolkit was piloted with eight hospitals from 2014 to 2016. Each hospital in the program received The Lighthouse Toolkit, which included a plan, action areas and quality improvements. The toolkit outlines ways hospitals can provide culturally appropriate and clinically competent care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their families, both during and beyond their time in hospital.    

Expansion of the project (2017 to 2019) 

In 2017, the Australian Government Department of Health provided $7.98 million to support the expansion of the project to 18 hospitals (i.e. phase three).  

Phase three enabled the project to reach nearly half of all cardiac admissions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples [1].  

The toolkit guided hospitals to implement significant quality improvement activities. Hospitals worked to develop a culturally safe and clinically appropriate hospital experience for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. 

Each hospital worked with local partner organisations, including Aboriginal Medical Services, community health service providers and the community to improve care coordination. 

Testimonials from Lighthouse hospitals  

"Community engagement and consultation for us to work together to ensure we make a real and permanent difference occurs when only relationships are strengthened, and our stories are written and shared. Phase 3 of the Lighthouse Project has been a strong step forward to writing new stories and making a real change to the way we design care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Work must continue to ensure that the many successful initiatives from Phase 3 are streamlined, shared and embedded into healthcare frameworks nationally to actively continue to close the health gap." 
CEO, regional health service 

“From an executive member point of view, being part of this project gives me the opportunity to promote improvements from other hospitals across our hospital. A lot of the techniques used in the Lighthouse Project for ACS will in fact be transferable to other conditions as we go forward, So, partnering in this is a fantastic opportunity to address chronic disease issues in our Aboriginal people.” 
Executive sponsor, metropolitan hospital 

“It has been great to be involved. It has been really good for the organisation. It has certainly given us momentum around things that would have taken a lot longer or not happened for who knows how long. I really do think that it has made differences, tangible differences, and I do think there are things that will measurably improve.” 
Project team member, metro hospital 

“You know, this toolkit has the opportunity to change disease management for Aboriginal people. It just needs to be scaled up. It’s incredible, and it works.” 
Project team member, regional hospital 

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