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15 Feb 2019

BY DR RICHARD KIDD, CHAIR, AMA COUNCIL OF GENERAL PRACTICE 

The year ahead is set to see a number of changes come into effect that will impact general practice. There is real opportunity and imperative for Government to deliver on some beneficial and successful health reform to truly support GPs in delivering patients the right care at the right time.

The Quality Improvement Incentive is set to be introduced on May 1 and will see the cessation of the Quality Prescribing, Diabetes, Asthma, Cervical Screening and Aged Care Access incentives. This new incentive has the potential to play a fundamental role in the building of high performing primary care, through continuous and data driven quality improvement. But only if it is adequately funded.

The AMA’s pre-Budget submission calls for a significant, long-term funding commitment to primary health care, led by general practice. This includes the retention of the Aged Care Access incentive to ensure that those GPs who leave their practices to visit aged care facilities continue to be supported to do so.

Still on the subject of providing care to residents of aged care facilities (RACFs), last year’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook provided for the removal of derived fees with the introduction of a new $55 single callout fee. This will be reflected in MBS items come March 1.

With the finalisation of Medicare Benefit Schedule Taskforce Review the AMA wants to see sensible changes that will underpin and reward continuity of care, strengthen the capacity of general practice to provide targeted and improved access to comprehensive care. The AMA will be watching to see which recommendations from the Review are taken up and will be providing advice on their implementation. Long overdue is a funding mechanism that will supplement existing MBS fee for service items and support pro-active, coordinated, team-based care. 

General practices from July 1, via the Workforce Incentive Program (WIP), from metro to remote, will be supported to expand their in-practice health team by engaging the services of a non-dispensing pharmacist or allied health provider to enhance the range of care provided. To ensure that practices can grow their capacity to meet patient health care needs and deliver quality and comprehensive health care the AMA wants this support extended to lifting the caps on the subsidies available under the WIP.

Soon the vast majority of Australians, unless they opt out, will have a My Health Record created for them. Having an electronic health record that treating practitioners can access when providing care to a patient in an acute situation will aid in improved clinical outcomes, through informed, timely treatment, the prevention of unnecessary medication errors, and unnecessary hospital re-admissions. If it is appropriately contributed to and utilised, it will be a vital tool in enhancing the transfer of information and connectivity across the health system.

Hopefully, the changes implemented this year will lay the foundation for a sustainable health system that supports the value of care provided more than the volume. As a profession we must push for and embrace those changes that will improve patient outcomes, while rejecting or seeking appropriate modifications to those that will undermine the delivery of quality health care.

The upcoming Budget is the Government’s opportunity to define and fund a vision for general practice for the long-term. With a federal election pending the AMA will be working hard to ensure that the key political parties understand what is required to deliver Australians a strong health system now and into the future.  

 


Published: 15 Feb 2019