Key to better hospital care

We’re living longer and the healthcare system is groaning. But a revolutionary program being trialled in Victoria offers a solution not previously considered for the chronically ill – a greater emphasis on at-home care.

New mums now traditionally spend just one to two days in hospital – given a normal birth – and that practice is being expanded.

The key is freeing up hospital beds for those most in need and treating more patients in their home, essentially addressing issues before they become chronic. That’s the preliminary finding of a program being trialled in Victoria, according to a report in the Herald Sun.

Western Health says it has freed up 9500 inpatient bed days over two years – the equivalent of adding almost 14 hospital beds every day. An average public hospital bed costs more than $1600 a day. The money saved on empty beds could support dozens of patients if spent earlier, before a person’s conditions become acute.

The Health Department-backed Western HealthLinks pilot project has saved $14 million on treatment and has redirected this to beds for those who are most in need, the Herald Sun reports.

With five per cent of the population requiring up to 80 per cent of the health budget, Western Health director of chronic and complex care Jason Plant said such projects offered a blueprint for the future of healthcare.

“We are looking at strategies to increase capacity and the ability to care for patients outside of the traditional inpatient beds, which is what this program does,” he said.

“Ideally, we prevent patients getting to the point where they develop chronic disease.”

He explained that an algorithm had been developed with the CSIRO to screen hospital records data and identify people with chronic and complex conditions who were repeat hospital patients.

Such patients were offered the chance to take part in the program with the aim of preventing or at least reducing the number of readmissions.

The patients receive in-home visits, 24/7 phone support, links with GPs and pharmacy support – all aimed at preventing a deterioration in their conditions.

The future of healthcare may be less about large new hospitals and more about services offered via personal devices and in-home visits.

A PwC Australia survey found that only 49 per cent of Victorians surveyed were satisfied with the current state of health services available in their area.

“We do have an ageing population, we do have more chronic disease and, through the wonder of medical advances, people can live with ailments that might need support for a lot longer,” said PwC health partner Damien Angus. “We need to look into different models of care and ways of caring for people.”

Does more in-home care for patients make sense to you? Or do you see it as an unwelcome transfer of responsibility?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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