Apr 19, 2024

“Give us a break”: GPs call for key improvements to the Hospital in the Home program

GPs call for key improvements to the Hospital in the Home program
Inconsistent guidance, billing confusion and communication issues are a headache for GPs and patients involved in the Hospital in the Home program [Shutterstock Images].

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) is urging the federal Government to help GPs and patients take full advantage of the Hospital in the Home program.

It comes following College President, Dr Nicole Higgins, writing to the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, calling for action. Under Hospital in the Home, patients receive acute care in the comfort of their home, or another suitable location.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins called for change.

“Inconsistent guidance, billing confusion and communication issues are a headache for GPs and patients. These issues are holding back the Hospital in the Home program,” she said.

“The RACGP has solutions at the ready so that all patients can get the best possible outcomes. We need more consistency in policy and guidance on the role of GPs when their patients are admitted into this program.

“There are so many inconsistencies across rules and exemptions dictating how and when GPs can provide care to their patients admitted under this program. To take one example, it’s unclear if a patient requesting a routine appointment with their regular GP for diabetes management would be able to access Medicare rebates if they are enrolled in Hospital in the Home for foot ulcer dressings. In Western Australia, we know of hospitals requesting that Hospital in the Home program patients undergo clearances and screenings performed by their GP, which could result in the GP getting in a lot of trouble if they bill Medicare. The list goes on and on around Australia.

“So, please give us a break, we are just trying to help our patients. Let’s remove the administrative headache for GPs and patients. We are calling on the federal Government to issue clear and nationally consistent guidance to all state and territory health departments and hospitals. This will clear up confusion across jurisdictions regarding communicating with GPs once their patient has been admitted, GP referrals, and billing practices.

“GPs must be kept in the loop. So, we recommend including clinical handover requirements under MyMedicare arrangements so that those responsible for the Hospital in the Home program will be required to contact a patient’s usual GP on admission and discharge. This will enhance continuity of care and ensure patients don’t fall between the cracks of the health system and end up back in hospital.”

The RACGP President also called for key changes concerning patient access to Medicare-funded services.

“The funding and cost arrangements aren’t working, so let’s change them,” she said.

“The Government should remove the restriction on Hospital in the Home patients accessing Medicare services from their GP. Hospital in the Home patients have to pay the full fee when attending an appointment with their regular GP, and then later on get reimbursed by the hospital system. It’s cumbersome and challenging for people to manage, especially when they are receiving complex care for serious conditions. So, instead, let’s make it more straightforward for everyone by allowing patients to access Medicare rebates and GPs to co-manage their patients care.

“Remember that particularly during a time of high cost-of-living pressures, concerns about cost sway many people’s decisions about the healthcare they do or don’t receive. Let’s make sure they are getting the best possible care from a GP they know and trust, it can make all the difference.”

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