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Award-winning program good for health and bottom line

Intelligence sharing in the health sector can result in better outcomes for both clients and the taxpayer

A new nurse-led health South Australian program that reduced hospital admissions by more than 50 per cent has been awarded a national award.

Trialed by the Royal District Nursing Service of South Australia, in partnership with a major Adelaide hospital and GPs, the Integrated Community Care for Older People program won the Australian Business Award for Community Contribution.

As part of the trial, 169 people who had two or more unplanned visits to hospital in the 12 months prior was dedicated a senior nurse who developed a specific care plan in consultation with the hospital and a GP.

Health professionals involved then accessed an e-health record to keep track of the client’s progress and any changes required in treatment regimes, Dale Cleaver, RDNS CEO, said.

The successful results of the trial showed the program’s potential in taking the pressure off hospital emergency departments across Australia, he said.

“It’s intelligence sharing in the health sector, to develop a better outcome for both clients and the taxpayer. Imagine the savings to Australian health budget and taxpayers if this kind of program was implemented across the country,” Cleaver said.

Along with achieving a more than 50 per cent reduction in unplanned emergency department presentations and hospital admissions, the trial saw a significant decrease in bed days. There was a 37 per cent reduction in total bed days for the programs clients compared to the hospital presentations in the preceding 12 months – a saving of 321 hospital bed days during the trial.

This result gave great weight to the programs ability to save money, said Cleaver, with the Productivity Commission estimating a hospital bed costs on average $1117 per day.

“Many people on the trial had multiple or chronic health care needs, such as a combination of dementia, diabetes and heart disease, something which does happen to a large proportion of the population as they age,” Cleaver said.

“Health programs such as these are not yet covered by health policy or funding models, despite the recent federal government announcements about reforms and funding for the hospital and health sector. The need to formalise this kind of program in both policy and practice is urgent if Australia is to respond to the ageing population, particularly with the anticipated peak in person’s aged over 85 years in 2012.”

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