Lighthouse - the story so far

Share this

Culture must be at the heart of indigenous health to Close the Gap

Beginning in 2012, the Lighthouse Hospital Project started with identifying examples of exemplary care, and a review of the key elements of this care. In total, 10 hospitals were identified as providing exemplary care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experiencing cardiovascular disease.

What we found

The key initiatives that delivered improvement in cardiac care and patient outcomes were:

  • the expansion and optimisation of the Aboriginal health workforce in participating hospitals
  • better identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
  • engaging in effective partnerships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities
  • fostering of champions on clinical staff
  • the commitment to the delivery of patient centred care and
  • using newer technologies to improve communication

The Lighthouse Toolkit 

Next, we piloted the project with eight hospitals. The pilot focused on testing the Lighthouse Toolkit.

The Lighthouse Toolkit outlines ways hospitals can  provide culturally appropriate and clinically competent care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their families as they journey through the hospital system and return to their communities.

Each hospital had a plan, outlining action areas and quality improvements to be delivered during the pilot.

Where we are now - next steps

In 2017 the Australian Government Department of Health provided $7.98 million to support the next phase of the Lighthouse Hospital Project.

In phase 3 of the Lighthouse Hospital Project (2017 – 2019), the program expanded to 18 hospitals. The focus of this phase was to implement quality improvements, based on the Lighthouse Toolkit. Phase 3 reached nearly half of all cardiac admissions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples [1].

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

Hospitals have implemented significant improvement activities to develop a culturally safe and clinically appropriate hospital experience for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

The Lighthouse Hospital Project aligns with the Better Cardiac Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples program. The Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council identified the program as a national priority, with a focus on improving access to guideline-based therapy for acute coronary syndrome, within a culturally safe and appropriate environment.

The project supports a range of Australian Government policies, programs and strategies which seek to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including inequalities in health outcomes and life expectancy including:

The evaluation results for Phase 3 will be released in 2020.

What the hospitals say

“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 happenned 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

Read case studies from the Lighthouse hospitals