The Health Care Home
Published 22 June 2016
The introduction of ‘Health Care Homes’
The Australian Government recently announced that as part of its ‘Healthier Medicare’ package, there will be a staged rollout of a nationally supported Health Care Home model to provide Australians with improved co-ordination, management and support for their chronic conditions. The Health Care Home is a concept driven out of the USA (often referred to the ‘Medical Home’ or ‘Patient Centred Medical Home’) as a high quality and cost efficient new approach to patient care.
Health Care Homes will initially be rolled out in seven trial regions across Australia, based on Primary Health Network (PHN) boundaries. Starting 1 July 2017, Health Care Homes will be trialled in up to 200 medical practices consisting of general practices and Aboriginal Medical Services. Trial PHN areas are being considered right now, and an Expression of Interest process will occur in late 2016, asking practices in the trial regions to nominate their interest in becoming a Health Care Home.
Health Care Homes will allow patients to nominate a GP practice as their ‘home base’, where they will have an opportunity to tailor care packages, allowing them to take better control of their future care – simplifying the overall management. Up to 65,000 Australians will participate in the two-year trial of Health Care Homes during the initial trial phase, and be limited to Medicare-eligible patients with two or more complex or chronic conditions. The aim of a successful Health Care Home model is to keep patients healthy at home and out of hospital by providing continuity of care, coordinated services and a team approach based on the needs of the patient.
As part of the Health Care Home trial, Minister for Health, Sport and Aged Care, Sussan Ley said the “My Health Record will be an essential element of these reforms that will support all members of a patient’s health care team to work in constant consultation with each other, through the seamless sharing of information such as medications, treatments, allergies and care plans. This will also help keep patients engaged in their own care planning by cutting down on frustrating duplication of tests and treatments for them, whilst also delivering efficiencies to the system.”
If implemented effectively, the Health Care Home model will enhance patient experiences, reduce healthcare costs (especially if unnecessary hospital admissions can be reduced) and support innovation and provide flexibility for healthcare providers.
Digital innovation enabling better healthcare
The Australian healthcare landscape is continuing to evolve with the introduction of new initiatives, technologies and digital services. Digital innovations and services such as remote health monitoring, telehealth options, medication management technologies and electronic sharing of health records are at the forefront of the evolving landscape and complement and support the Health Care Home model.
An example of the benefits that can be achieved through this synergy is the integration of Health Care Homes with My Health Record.
My Health Record provides convenient and secure access to important health information such as allergies, medical conditions, treatments and medicine details which are stored in one place, online. Likewise the purpose of Health Care Homes is to track, monitor and review patients to ensure the care they are receiving is well coordinated and meeting their needs. Accessing and updating individuals’ key health information online via My Health Record will strengthen the Health Care Home model and support GPs and other healthcare providers involved in a Health Care Home.
Managing an individuals health can be complex, especially when it involves multiple complex and chronic health conditions. Being able to see the clinical decisions of other healthcare providers will mean better diagnosis and treatment decisions, better care for patients, and will support patients to take greater control of their own health. Embracing the Health Care Home model in conjunction with digital technology will put Australia on the path to an even better healthcare system.