The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has urged the federal government to increase funding for GP visits to aged care homes to ensure care recipients can always access the medical care needed.
The extra funding would make it easier for GPs to deliver care to those living in residential care, and has been prompted by AMA members reporting difficulties that deter doctors from visiting aged care facilities altogether.
According to a press release from the AMA, the peak body for doctors, the main issues that have been causing barriers to providing the necessary care include:
“Instead we should be attracting more doctors into aged care by supporting them to take the time away from their busy practices and visit patients in nursing homes. That way GPs can continue their relationships with their elderly patients who move into aged care.”
According to Dr Khorshid, most GPs bulk bill aged care patients, however, this process leaves the doctors out of pocket, as the current Medicare rebate does not cover the time they spend in care facilities, or what they call “non-contact time” – the time spent on a patient’s care outside of their consultation.
According to a table provided by the AMA, the total minutes spent on non-contact time could reach up to 89 minutes, between travel to the facility, finding a staff member and the patient within the facility, discussing the patient’s medical history, and notifying family of any changes or updates to the patient’s medical care.
These difficulties create barriers to doctors and mean they aren’t able to deliver the quality of care that older patients require.
“We’ve estimated this to cost $145 million in 2021-22 and $643 million over four years to 2024-25 in our new modelling. 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 Chris Moy, the Vice President of the AMA and a GP who also works in aged care, said that the range of non-contact activities carried out by doctors to support aged care patients was extensive.
“Additionally, incompatible IT systems often mean crucial patient information gets lost and that’s bad news for the older person.
“It’s ridiculous to talk about innovative digital technologies when they don’t work for the patient and their doctor.
“The My Health Record, My Aged Care, nursing home IT and GP clinical software all need to be able to talk to each other for the benefit of the patient and all involved in their care.”
Dr Moy also went on to say that inadequate examination spaces makes it difficult to conduct consultations in private and in a way that preserves the patient’s dignity. He called for nursing homes to become equipped with purpose-built examination rooms, as the current setup often does not have space for private examinations.
Dr Moy went on to say that these changes made an essential part of the required aged care updates, and would ensure that both visiting GPs and their patients would be able to provide and receive the top level care that is required.
“We’ve identified a suite of needs for both the patient and GP in nursing home settings and if the Government is serious about reforming aged care, they should allocate resources to these areas.
“All of this speaks to our call to put health care back into aged care by boosting the number of doctors and nurses in aged care, and ultimately improving the health of our precious but often most vulnerable members of our community residing in the aged care system.”
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