Innovation needed to improve after-hours primary care in rural, remote areas

Friday, April 8, 2016

A new Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research Issues Brief has pointed the way forward on improving after hours primary care in Australia’s more remote regions.

The brief, Review of After-Hours Service Models: Learnings for regional, rural and remote communities, was developed by Northern Queensland PHN and Healthy Futures Australia, in association with the AHHA. .

“After-hours primary care has been a problematic area for years, and with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) having been tasked to find the best approach for delivering it in their regions, an investigation into the varied models around the country was timely,” Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

The brief evaluates the current delivery models of after-hours primary health care nationally and internationally. In particular, it describes the varied approaches to service delivery.

This variation is attributed to a range of factors including funding sources, workforce availability, consumer awareness, distance and remoteness, population structure and local economies.

Among the wide range of service models identified in the brief were GP-centred models which utilise practice-based after-hours GP visits, Medical Deputising Services, co-located GP clinics in hospitals, nurse-led telephone triage models, and internet-supported triage models.

Additional challenges of after-hours service delivery were identified in regional, rural and remote areas. Issues such as poor transport access, lack of home visiting for some patient groups, poor access to allied services including pharmacy and mental health services, lack of or poor internet access and widespread health care workforce insufficiencies all impacted on quality after-hours primary care.

 “This brief identifies a number of innovations and program elements that could be commonly applied by PHNs throughout Australia, based on several key principles. Services must be flexible, responsive and tailored to regional circumstance. The broader health workforce must be efficiently and effectively utilised. Innovative service delivery should always be promoted, and data used to inform policy change. Open and clear communication with patients and providers was also found to be key to successful service delivery.”

Read the full Issues Brief here.  

Media enquiries:
Alison Verhoeven
Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association
0403 282 501