The Turnbull Government’s revolutionary Healthier Medicare reform package, announced today, will provide people living with chronic and complex conditions in rural and remote communities with care better tailored to their needs.
Today’s announcement is the Turnbull Government’s response to the Primary Health Care Advisory Group’s (PHCAG) review of the management of chronic and complex conditions by Australia’s primary health care system.
In their report to the Government, Better Outcomes for People with Chronic and Complex Health Conditions, PHCAG noted:
“Coordination of care remains a challenge in many rural practices. Increasing care continuity for high needs patients through enrolment in the Health Care Home and increasing communications between health care providers through more effective use of digital health records holds considerable promise for the delivery of care in rural communities.”
Accordingly, the Government has today announced the adoption of the Health Care Home model of care to tackle the growing challenge posed by chronic and complex conditions. Health Care Homes will help patients to find and access the health care services that they need, when they need them.
They will also simplify a chronically ill patient’s care by allowing them to nominate one general practice as their ‘home base’ for the coordination of their care needs on an ongoing basis.
The Health Care Home will also focus on educating patients in regional and remote communities on their health conditions to provide them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their day to day care. Better education will also enable patients to be more active participants in decisions made about the care that they receive.
Many aspects of the Health Care Home model are already in place in rural and remote general practices and community controlled health services across the country to help bridge the unique service gaps they face every day. This initiative will support them to formalise this model of care and build on these innovative local solutions.
While people living in regional and remote communities have a higher burden of disease they generally have poorer access to health services. In 2013-14, nearly one in three people living in outer regional, remote or very remote areas waited longer than they felt acceptable to get an appointment with a GP compared with just over one in five in major cities. These patients were more likely than people living in major cities to attend an emergency department to receive care as a consequence of not being able to access a GP when required.
To improve access to health services for people with chronic conditions in regional communities, the Government has unveiled flexible funding arrangements that make it possible for patients to connect with their GP and health care team in ways not previously available through Medicare.
Flexible funding will also support health providers to adopt new health care innovations such as the use of remote monitoring devices to stay on top of a patient’s condition.
The changes announced today are part of a broader strategic approach to health care reform designed to tailor health care services to the needs of local populations and to redress inequities in care faced by regional and remote communities.
On 1 July 2015, the Government established Primary Healthcare Networks (PHN) to work with local communities to identify gaps in health care services. Flexible funding provided to PHNs enables them to commission services to address these unmet service needs.
The Government has also committed to expanding the rural health care workforce through the introduction of the Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) measure and the creation of an additional 300 training positions under the Australian General Practice Training Programme.
Today’s announcement reflects the Turnbull Government’s commitment to investment in regional communities and to work with health providers and the public to improve health outcomes for all Australians.