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Chronic and complex care reform must focus on access: AHHA

You're on the right track but put more emphasis on the consumer and affordability.

That was the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association's (AHHA) reaction to the release of the Primary Health Care Advisory Group's discussion paper, Better Outcomes for People with Chronic and Complex Health Conditions through Primary Health Care.

Minister for health Sussan Ley said the discussion paper considered reform options that would inform the government’s development of a healthier Medicare to support people with complex and chronic diseases and keep them out of hospital longer.

Ley said the paper canvassed a broad range of options to improve patient-centred primary care.

“It is essential to review chronic disease healthcare because the use of chronic disease management Medicare items had grown by almost 17 per cent in 2013–14, compared with the previous year, with more than $587.6 million worth of benefits paid for over 5.6 million services,” Ley said. “This discussion is a real opportunity to cater for the increase in chronic and complex conditions and this approach ensures that health professionals and patients continue to be central to this process.”

Ley encouraged all Australians, including patients, health professionals and interested parties, to look at the options included in the discussion paper and provide feedback.

Alison Verhoeven, chief executive of AHHA, said it was pleasing that the health minister was seeking the views of Australians on the issue and considering a range of innovative options.

AHHA noted, however, that the proposals the paper outlined focused on the organisation and funding of primary health services, workforce responsibilities, and technology and data enablers. The group stated that the desired outcomes of reform were not clearly defined, and the various proposals were presented in isolation, without reflection on interrelatedness.

The association added it was unfortunate that the concepts of equity, accessibility and affordability were absent from the paper and from the vision and guiding principles.

“If the aim of this paper is to provide options to improve health outcomes for people with chronic and complex health conditions, it has overlooked the economic disadvantage that many people with these conditions experience, and it provides little evidence of any consideration of equity, accessibility and affordability in its system redesign proposals," Verhoeven said.

AHHA has urged the Primary Health Care Advisory Group and the health minister to look beyond the financial interests of governments and providers, and place consumers and their ability to access affordable, quality, well-integrated healthcare at the centre of any changes.

Feedback on the discussion paper can be given through an online survey, which will be open until early September.

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