Changes are coming to the primary health care system as part of the latest plan for health reform, and these changes could improve the health of people with disability.
- Reforms to the health care system are planned for over the next ten years
- The plan aims to create equitable access to high-quality health care for all Australians
- Actions that are part of the plan will include the use of telehealth, digital records and better collaboration between health and other systems
The Australian Government’s Future focused primary health care: Australia’s Primary Health Care Ten Year Plan 2022-2032 sets out how the system should look and what Australians should expect from their health care in ten years.
It also lists the actions that will be taken to achieve that vision. This article explains how this plan may affect you and your health care.
Why is the plan important?
People with disability have long had issues accessing adequate health care.
During the consultation process for the health reforms, it showed people with disability experienced higher levels of chronic and preventable disease than those without disability.
People with disability also face barriers to accessing the right care and on average die younger than people without disability.
A big focus of the plan is to remove these barriers and improve the health system so that people with disability have equal outcomes with other Australians.
A range of other groups were consulted about barriers they faced to accessing appropriate health care, as well as poor health outcomes, including:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- People living in rural and remote areas
- Older Australians
- People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- People experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage
- LGBTQIA+ people
- People experiencing mental illness
The plan includes actions that will address access to health services for all people who experience barriers, as well as the steps the health system needs to take to provide the best care possible.
The health care reform plan has key areas to improve and build on that will better the lives of all Australians.
Firstly, the plan has four aims:
- Improve people’s experience of care
- Improve the health of the population
- Improve the cost-efficiency of the health system
- Improve the work life of health care providers
To achieve these aims the reform will focus on and measure progress against six objectives:
- Equitable access to the best quality services
- Close the Gap - equity in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with other Australians
- Manage health and wellbeing in the community
- Support continuity of care across the health care system
- Support care system integration and sustainability
- Embrace new technologies and methods
- Support safety and quality improvement
What will change?
All of the key ideas outlined in the plan, when they come together, will mean a shift in how the health care system operates to make it a more helpful and more efficient system that keeps Australians healthy.
Changes from the ten year plan have already begun - such as the continuation of telehealth services, which will be a large part of delivering more services to people in the comfort of their own home rather than in a centre or general practice.
Telehealth will also be used to give people in rural areas access to health services, although it will not be designed to completely replace face-to-face services. The other practical factor that will improve rural health is more allied health professional placements.
Technologies that help people to stay at home while receiving care, such as wearable devices that monitor body functions, will become more common as it helps reduce the number of people admitted to hospital.
The Government will also look at whether Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations can deliver more aged care and disability services to First Nations people.
The digital My Health Record system, which is an opt-in summary of your health information, will be used to better share information between the health care services you access - for example, between the hospital that treats you and your General Practitioner (GP).
You will soon also be able to choose to register with your doctor through a program called ‘MyGP’ for voluntary patient registration, so that you can have better continuity of care by seeing the same GP regularly.
In the future, the Government may use this registration to see which GPs are providing the best care according to the number of patients endorsing them and provide funding to give them the incentive to continue delivering high-quality care.
In recognition that the health system works alongside other systems, over the next ten years there will be a focus on improving how disability, aged care and community services work together.
Your care will be delivered by a multidisciplinary team in the future - with your GP at the centre of the team and coordinating with any other services you need, including allied health and mental health services, midwives, nurses and specialists.
The Government will also look at whether doctor appointments can be longer for people with disability, mental illness or complex needs to allow time for GPs to deliver the best care.
As people who use Auslan or have a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background face barriers to accessing information in health care settings, the Government will provide more interpreters and more culturally appropriate resources in accessible formats.
The accessible information will also be produced in Easy Read and plain language.
What do you think of the health reforms planned for the next ten years? Tell us in the comments below.