International evidence shows that multidisciplinary care is key to providing best-practice treatment and care for patients with cancer. This has been recognised in New Zealand with the document ‘Guidance for Implementing High-quality Multidisciplinary Meetings: Achieving Best Practice Care’ published by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2012.  This guidance provided DHBs with a framework and toolkit to support them with implementing high quality MDMs.

MDMs provide a forum where key items of clinical information are used to identify the best care plan for a patient. Specialists in cancer care attend these meetings and include surgeons, physicians, radiologists, pathologists, oncologists, cancer nurse specialists and cancer nurse coordinators as well as others in the multi-disciplinary team, using video conferencing as required. The patient is not present at these meetings.

Approximately 65 MDMs are held monthly across the South Island covering 14 tumour streams.

Effective MDMs have positive outcomes for patients receiving care and for the health professionals involved in providing the care and health services. Some of the benefits are:

  • treatment planning is improved because health professionals consider the full range of therapeutic options, which improves outcomes
  • improved equality of outcomes for patients with cancer
  • more patients are offered the opportunity to take part in relevant clinical trials
  • there is greater continuity of care and less duplication of services
  • services are better coordinated
  • communication between care providers improves, as clear lines of responsibility are developed between members of the multidisciplinary meeting
  • time and resources are used more efficiently.

The SCN’s work in this space directly supports expectations in the Ministry’s New Zealand Cancer Plan 2015-18 which states “patients will be prioritised and their care discussed at MDMs”, and the Ministry’s Cancer Health Information Strategy (CHIS) which has a strong focus on the standardisation of MDM processes, data and the development of appropriate tools to support this. Work towards identifying a set of national MDM requirements is currently underway, and findings from this will be released in November 2016.

At a regional level, improvements in effectiveness, functionality and coverage of MDMs and delivery of Ministry’s Faster Cancer Treatment target have been identified as priority areas in current South Island DHB and SCN work plans. 

The SCN has a number of projects underway that are aimed towards improving the effectiveness of the MDMs, regional alignment of clinical practice within the MDM environment and patient pathways across all DHBs.

For further deails about these project please contact Janfrey Doak

More information about MDMs can be found on the Ministry of Health website .