The peak body representing Australia’s doctors is calling for Federal Government investment in digital technology and treatment rooms in residential aged care to improve resident care and reduce avoidable hospitalisations.

The Australian Medical Association launched the report Putting health back into aged care this month as part of the Care Can’t Wait advocacy campaign its running in conjunction with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.

They have estimated $21 billion in savings by addressing preventable hospital admissions from aged care by implementing a range of recommendations.

Those measures include an investment in tools and technology to improve health care in aged care, including increasing the uptake of My Health Record, and clinically-equipped treatment rooms in facilities for doctors to use.

There also needs to interoperability between the My Health Record, clinical information systems of general practitioners and My Aged Care to facilitate better communication and timely information sharing between doctors, aged care residents and staff, the AMA said.

“Once established, that interoperability would enable the use by clinicians, nursing homes, assessors and care finders as a method of communication across aged care. It would also enable doctors to easily access information about their patient, such as the results of their ACAT assessment,” the report said.

AMA vice president Dr Chris Moy said doctors visiting aged care residents currently spend a significant amount of time on care outside of the consultation, including on paperwork.

Dr Chris Moy

“Incompatible IT systems often mean crucial patient information gets lost and that’s bad news for the older person,” Dr Moy said.

“It’s ridiculous to talk about innovative digital technologies when they don’t work for the patient and their doctor.”

Aged care homes should have clinically equipped examination rooms to preserve a resident’s dignity but currently GPs are often unable to examine aged care residents in private because there are no treatment rooms available, he said.

“Just making sure a GP is supported in visiting a resident who has deteriorated can make the difference between them having to be transferred to hospital or not. Being able to treat the resident in their home is better for the individual and the health system,” Dr Moy said.

More funding for GPs to visit aged care

The AMA has also developed a remuneration model to better support GPs to deliver care in aged care facilities.

The proposed modelling includes increasing Medicare funding for GPs visiting aged care facilities by 50 per cent to compensate for the additional time, which is up to 89 minutes, and complexities involved compared to a consultation in the practice.

AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said this estimated to $145 million in 2021-22 and $643 million over the next four years to 2024-25.

Omar Khorshid

“It’s a relatively small ask when we’ve identified over $21 billion of savings that can be made in addressing preventable hospital admissions from aged care,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Most GPs bulk bill their patients in aged care, but they themselves are out of pocket as a result as the current Medicare rebate is woefully inadequate to cover the time spent in nursing homes with patients and what we call ‘non-contact time’ – the time spent on a patient’s care outside of their consultation,” he said.

Dr Khorshid said it is important to be attracting GPs into aged care and supporting them to deliver the quality care residents expect and deserve.

“That way GPs can continue their relationships with their elderly patients who move into aged care,” he said.

Other recommendations include:

  • introducing Medicare Benefits Scheme telehealth items for phone calls between GPs, aged home staff and relatives
  • a quality standard for medical access in aged care homes
  • care finders to work closely with GPs to coordinate health and aged care services
  • minimum staff-to-resident ratios in aged care homes
  • registered nurse availability in aged care homes at all times.

Access the Putting health back into aged care report.

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