Report calls for primary care reform

Primary care GPA new report calls for GPs to be paid to collect primary care data, and for changes to Medicare’s fee-for-service payments system, in order to cut avoidable hospital admissions and provide better care for people with chronic disease.

The Grattan Institute report, Building better foundations for primary care, states that reforms to primary care could help save more than $320 million a year on avoidable hospital admissions.

Australia’s primary health system was “designed in and for another era” and is now failing in the prevention and management of chronic disease, it suggests.

The report says the fee-for-service payment system for GP visits needs to change in favour of broader payments to health teams for integrated, long-term care of patients with chronic illness.

“GPs would be financially rewarded for getting the best results for their patients rather than for seeing their patients more often,” it states.

The report urges four major recommendations to reform primary care:

  1.  Pay for better data: It states that better data would enable realistic targets to be set for improvement in primary care. It argues that if the Medicare rebate freeze is lifted, it should be taken as an opportunity to make a new payment to general practices for gathering and supplying the necessary data.
  2. Primary Care Agreements should be made between the Commonwealth, the states and Primary Health Networks Commonwealth to end blame-shifting, it states. These agreements should set specific goals and create joint accountability for failure to meet them.
  3. Strengthen Primary Health Networks: Primary Health Networks should be given the resources and the explicit responsibility for creating more effective and efficient primary care systems in their local areas, and need to be held accountable for making improvements that will reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.
  4. Reform fee-for-service funding over the long term: The report argues that the fee-for-service payment system for GPs needs to change, so general practices get rewarded for getting the best outcomes for their patients.

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