Chronic care reform a primary first step

Australians living with chronic and complex illness face a better future under the Federal Government’s reform plan, provided this promising first step is backed by much more funding.

“The Consumers Health Forum welcomes the statement by the Prime Minister today for the initial trials of new approaches in primary care to bring better coordinated and more effective services to respond to the great and growing demands facing 21st medicine generated by chronic illnesses, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“It is an ambitious step the Government is taking to reform the way primary care has been delivered, traditionally largely by GPs but often with little support to ensure patients get the overall care they need from other health professionals like nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, podiatrists and others who are training to provide the right care for people with complex conditions.

“This has been the great challenge facing Australian health care for the past 30 years ---- how to reshape Medicare to ensure health services are responsive to the variety of needs imposed by chronic illness and population ageing.

“The reforms offer the prospect of welcome changes that place the patient at the centre of care. Voluntary patient enrolment will provide a clinical ‘home-base’ for the coordination, management and ongoing support for their care.

“It will promote the idea of patients, families and their carers as partners with clinicians in their care, encouraging them to manage their health, aided by technology and with the support of a health care team.

“This will open the way for more avenues to advice and care by telephone, email or videoconferencing, including for after-hours advice or care.

“However a system that ensures realistic levels of coordinated care for the millions of Australians who need it will take significantly more funding than currently foreshadowed.

“The new plan highlights the need for the Commonwealth,states and territories at COAG tomorrow to rethink the entrenched concentration on public hospital funding and begin devoting more to primary care which not only reduces demands for much more expensive hospital beds but likely leaves patients happier and in better shape.

“We support the Health Minister Sussan Ley’s mission to press for stronger primary health care. She has been prepared to propose what has always been resisted by many doctors, a more flexible payment system aimed at better outcomes for patients rather than the current rigid fee for service system which provides little incentive to support more comprehensive care involving other health practitioners.

“What is needed now is more support to ensure the new Primary Health Networks can commission and implement the coordinated services required in their region. The PHNs provide an ideal launching pad for a modernised Medicare.”


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Mark Metherell
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