Caley Delivers Keynote in Australia

Sylvia Caley, clinical professor, director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) and co-director of the HeLP Legal Services clinic, delivered the keynote address for the first national conference presented by Health Justice in Australia, focusing on their approach to the development and sustainability of medical-legal partnerships. Caley’s experience in developing HeLP, an internationally recognized medical-legal partnership, served as a successful illustration to frame the discussions throughout the conference. Australians brand their collaborations as health justice partnerships.

Caley’s presentation highlighted the opportunities and the challenges of launching a medical-legal partnership. Her key messages were that development of relationships are critical to establishing a medical-legal partnership and that it requires patience. As she noted, the launch of HeLP was a 13-year odyssey. A significant obstacle was hospital administrator fears about liability – that partnering with lawyers would result in medical malpractice cases against the hospital. HeLP came into being when administrators recognized how lawyers working with doctors could improve patient health and well-being – a proposition HeLP documents through its research mission.

In addition to her keynote presentation, Caley spoke about how HeLP evaluates its impact on its clients and its students during a workshop on evaluation. Caley and her colleagues recognized the importance of evaluation from the beginning and, thus, have more than 10 years of data that have formed the basis of multiple publications.

After the conference’s conclusion, Caley met the Integrated Services Roundtable comprised of representative from several departments in Victoria state government, including the Departments of Justice and Regulation, Treasury and Finance, and Health and Human Services to talk about medical-legal partnerships. She was once again asked to share the HeLP experience. The organizers of the meetings hoped a successful example would inspire creative thinking on ways to sustain health justice within the Australian system.

Caley’s trip ended in Sydney. There she met with community organizations about how medical-legal partnerships can benefit patients. During this meeting, Caley shared information about HeLP and the growth of medical-legal partnerships in the United States, as well as statistics about the number of patients who have received services. She finished with a meeting at the University of Technology Sydney with members of the faculties of law and health and the Center for Health Services Management where she again shared information about HeLP’s experience with evaluation, including its efforts through an American Association of Medical Colleges grant to develop metrics.