Federal Politics

Chronically ill patients to receive trial health package

Thousands of chronically ill patients will receive tailored health services under a trial the Turnbull government intends to roll out nationally.

The Prime Minister's office released part of the government's primary healthcare review - which it received in December - late on Wednesday, ahead of a crucial meeting with state and territory leaders about health and education funding on Friday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office has released part of the government's primary healthcare review.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office has released part of the government's primary healthcare review. Photo: Daniel Munoz

The review, chaired by former Australian Medical Association President, Dr Steve Hambleton, recommended establishing Healthcare Homes "which provide continuity of care, coordinated services and a team-based approach, according to the needs and wishes of the patient."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement that they would establish a trial of Healthcare Homes, which allowed patients with multiple chronic illnesses to nominate a GP practice as their "home base". This practice would coordinate a healthcare package tailored to their conditions, they said, billing it as "one of the biggest health-system reforms since the introduction of Medicare 30 years ago".

Medicare payments for general practitioners to coordinate the packages will be paid quarterly "except where a routine health issue does not relate to their chronic illness".

The statement acknowledged this was a move away from Medicare's current fee-for service model: "This will encourage providers to be flexible and innovative in how they communicate and deliver care, and will ensure that the patient's healthcare needs are regularly monitored and reviewed."

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About 65,000 people would be part of the first trials of the package, which involved up to 200 medical practices.

The statement said that "high users of the health system" saw up to five different GPs a year.

"Seeing multiple GPs increases a patient's risk of poor healthcare coordination and their likelihood of falling through the cracks and ending up in hospital."

They did not say how much the trial would cost, when it would begin or when it may be extended nationally. 

It follows reports the federal government is preparing to offer states and territories a partial reversal of the Coalition's $57 billion cuts to public hospitals over a decade in the 2014 budget. The statement said the latest reforms would be put to state and territory leaders at the COAG meeting.

They estimated up to one in five Australians had two or more chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Consumer Health Forum chief executive officer, Leanne Wells, supported the decision, saying it was "long overdue" but said it needed to be adequately funded to work  nationally.

"One of the things we hear repeatedly from patients is they just can't get well-coordinated care and the whole point of a healthcare home is people with a set of really complex diseases can, through a GP-led team, get that happening. The critical issue is making it happen and at scale."

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