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Beechworth Health, located in the rural town at northeast Victoria, has received $1.3m in federal funding to launch its new care tool for older Australians. Picture: Supplied.

New care tool for rural older Australians receives federal support

A rural health service has received considerable funding from the federal government to launch a care planning tool for older Australians in rural communities.

Yesterday, the Australian government granted $1.3m to fund the rollout of the Indigo 4Ms tool designed by a consortium of rural health services from Indigo Shire in northeast Victoria.

Led by Beechworth Health, the Indigo 4Ms is a tool designed to improve care planning for older people including medication-use, mobility and mental health, and can be used in any care setting. 

"Australians living in rural and regional Victoria deserve access to quality primary health care services that matter to them," Victorian Labor Party Senator Linda White said.

"Better health care tools help us deliver the primary health care services that rural and regional communities in Victoria want and need.

"The tool also improves access to these services by reducing the impact of distance on rural and regional access to health care."

The Indigo Shire has worked with local academics, US experts, the local council, and consumers to address the complex and fragmented nature of healthcare for older people in rural communities.

The team drew inspiration from international, evidence-based models, such as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's (IHI) 4Ms framework and data from the World Health Organisation.

Focussing on four core elements, what matters, medications, mobility, and mental well being, the tool aims to assess and deliver specific action prompts to improve care planning.

One of its main features is to assist clinicians in screening and assessing high-risk medication use and ensure effective prescription practices. 

By addressing these aspects, the tool hopes to remove unnecessary and ineffective medicines and reduce harm to older people, who often take five or more medication each day.

Roughly one in five older people have adverse responses to medication each month, despite over half of those being preventable, due to polypharmacy and miscommunication between healthcare professionals.

The tool also monitors whether people are adequately hydrated, sleep well and are nourished.

Older people are at a higher risk of malnutrition as certain nutrients, such as calcium and protein, can be more challenging to incorporate into their diet as the body's needs change with age.

Similarly, the tool supports people to stay mobile and participate in physical activity to retain physical strength and balance.

"If we're to tackle the challenges older Australians in rural and remote communities face, we must deliver health care that considers their individual needs," Australia's Health Minister Mark Butler said.

"The Indigo 4Ms tool has great potential in helping ensure that older Australians get coordinated and effective health care, without service duplication or having to tell their medical history multiple times. 

"I look forward to seeing the evaluation results once it is rolled out."

Mr Butler said the funding built upon the $5.5m already invested in innovative primary care models in rural communities in NSW and WA.

Beechworth Health Service received $400,000 in previous funding from the Primary Care Rural Innovative Multidisciplinary Model program to co-design a healthcare solution for local communities. 

This grant is part of the federal government's $24.7m investment in the Innovative Models of Care Program, which aims to trial new approaches to multidisciplinary primary care in rural areas. 

Applications for additional grants will open in mid-2023 and late 2023.

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