PHN off to a solid start and getting runs on the board

Health care continues to be one of the highest priorities for Australians and as we start a New Year it is worthwhile reviewing some of the changes that occurred in health care over the past twelve months and consider some of the initiatives happening in 2016.

Health continues to remain one of the Commonwealth government’s biggest spending areas, costing around $65 billion a year or 9.4% of Australia’s GDP. How the government spends that money is always a strongly debated issue. An ageing population, budget sustainability and competing demands from consumers and health providers means that debate is not likely to change.

In the area of primary care we saw the start of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across the country. In our region the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Medicare Locals were successful in tendering with the Hunter New England and Central Coast Local Health Districts to operate the PHN covering their former geographical footprints. The new organisation, Hunter New England Central Coast PHN, began operating on July 1.

CEO of the Hunter New England Central Coast PHN Richard Nankervis explained that PHNs are responsible for improving the health of their communities by developing collaborative partnerships with hospitals (both public and private), GPs, specialists and allied health professionals like optometrists, physiotherapists and dietitians.

“PHNs play the role of planners, integrators and purchasers of health services but do not deliver services directly to the community. PHNs are also working closely with GPs and other clinicians to identify and respond to community health needs and the establishment of care pathways”, said Mr Nankervis.

“In the six months since beginning operations our local PHN has already undertaken a number of initiatives that are improving co-ordination and collaboration between the primary health care and hospital sector and leading to improvements in the health of our communities”.

Some of the PHN’s new initiatives include:

  • An eReferral trial - we are working to integrate the software in GP practices with those of specialists and the hospital system so the whole referral process works more efficiently. Some of the benefits will include eliminating referrals returned due to incomplete information and reducing the need to confirm referrals received due to automatic notifications
  • Ambulance Alternate Pathways pilot - This involves Paramedics where appropriate, referring ‘non-emergency’ patients to their regular General Practitioner (GP) following a Triple Zero (000) call. The aim of the ‘initiative’ is to refer ‘non-emergency’ patients to appropriate non-hospital providers, which may decrease hospital presentations and see patients connecting with the most appropriate health care in the right place at the right time.
  • Aged Care Information Sharing Project – We are working with aged care facilities to develop a clear understanding of their current work practices relating to health information so we can improve the transfer of information between aged care facilities and hospitals.
  • Central Coast Integrated Care Program – this program is working to integrate health and social care services so intervention and avoidance strategies can be implemented before longer term health complications develop.

The PHN is also contracting an extensive range of primary health care services in Aboriginal Health, After Hours GP support and care, Mental Health, Rural Primary Health Care services (including Allied Health services), Aged Care Emergency service, Rural Primary Health Care nurses and a Mobile x-ray to Residential Aged Care Facilities.

An exciting new project to trialled in 2016 by the PHN will be an innovation hub. Innovation is an important part of healthcare delivery. The initiative will provide opportunities to introduce key partners from across the health care sector in our region so they work together on delivering better health outcomes.

“Our aim is to facilitate a culture of innovation and to create an environment where clinicians can come together and share ideas that will help us fulfil our vision of healthy people and healthy communities” Mr Nankervis said.

“It’s early days for the PHN but given the significant achievements we have already had we are starting 2016 confident that we are working towards our vision of a healthier people and healthier communities”

For further information contact Scott White, HNECC Communication Manager, 0437 478 138