Time for 21st Century health care is now

The Health Care Homes initiative being trialled by the Federal Government offers the potential for significantly improved, integrated, 21st century care in general practice so it is disappointing to hear reports that public awareness about it remains low, the Consumers Health Forum says.

The Australian reports that the trial of the Health Care Homes will struggle to recruit that 65,000 participants planned for. 

“The Federal Government took the lead in establishing the trial which CHF supported.  It is important that people with complex and chronic conditions receive tailored and coordinated care from their family doctor and wider health care team.  Supported by a different way of funding care, the Health Care Homes initiative is a chance to explore how that can be done in new and innovative ways using telehealth, patient self-management and maximising the way we use Australia’s well trained, primary health workforce,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

What is needed now is for consumers to have a solid understanding of the benefits of Health Care Homes and to be actively supported to be involved. We also need more resourcing and strong leadership from the health professions to work with the initiative, and help evaluate it and evolve it.

“The Health Care Homes initiative is the first project of its kind, offering incentives to GPs to manage team-based patient care needs rather than the current fee for service which rewards short-term, episode-based services,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“The recent Productivity Commission, ‘Shifting the Dial’ report states the Australian and international experience with integrated care indicates that if properly implemented patient centred health care homes, on which the Health Care Home Programme is based, leads to better health outcomes, improvements in patient experience with care, reductions in costs and improved job satisfaction for clinicians.

“As the Commission report states Australia has been searching for a more coordinated system for nearly two decades but “realising the goal has been elusive…This reflects systemic deficiencies in the structure of the health system --- its funding, governance, linkages, attitudes --- that inevitably act as stumbling blocks”.

“In Health Care Homes, the GP acts as a health care navigator, often with the aid of a nurse, who helps a patient develop a care plan and then provides or arranges for the bundle of care according to the care plan, the commission report states.

“The need for such an approach is becoming more pressing than ever given the rising demands of chronic illness and the modern capabilities of health care and information technology to manage complicated care needs more efficiently and effectively.

“The Health Care Home development is a step in the right direction and has the potential to evolve in a more widely taken-up national approach that could reduce the need for hospitalisation of many patients, yet Australia’s federal-state health funding divide has impeded progress in attempts to get community health and hospital funding priorities aligned.

“Let’s not commit it to failure at this point.  Consumers and clinicians have a shared interest in making it work.  Our health system will decline unless we can address this challenge,” Ms Wells said.


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