An increase in the Medicare rebate for visits to residential aged care facilities along with the introduction of new rebates for GP video consultations and improved IT infrastructure could help slow the decline in GP visits to RACFs, a survey has found.
The Australian Medical Association's 2012 aged care survey, conducted in July and released today, found that more than 15 per cent of doctors who provide medical care to RACFs intend to reduce their visits over the next two years.
The survey also showed that the majority of doctors who paid visits to RACFs were male and over 40, which the AMA said was not a reflection of the demographic make-up of the GP population.
The survey shows that the average number of visits by medical practitioners per month to RACFs is 6.3, down from 8.36 visits per month in the 2008 AMA survey, but that the average number of patients seen by doctors per visit has grown, as has the average time spent with each patient.
The most common reasons respondents gave when asked why they had decreased their visits in the past five years were that patient rebates were inadequate and did not compensate for lost time in the surgery, unpaid non-face-to-face time was increasing, and the practice was too busy.
The most common reason for GPs to continue to visit nursing homes or increase their visits was a sense of obligation.
“Medicare rebates for medical services provided in residential aged care facilities must be increased to reflect the complexity of care and the significant amount of additional, but clinically relevant, non face-to-face time with the patient that goes into overseeing their care,” AMA president Steve Hambleton said in a statement.
In addition to better remuneration, respondents put the highest priority on an increase in the number of suitably trained and experienced nurses to support the care of older people in aged care facilities.
Respondents also indicated that the introduction of Medicare rebates for video consultations and better IT facilities at RACFs might encourage more GPs to provide medical care.
“Medicare rebates for GP video consultations would mean residents of aged care facilities could receive timely quality healthcare without medical practitioners sacrificing time in their busy practices,” Dr Hambleton said.
“And improving IT facilities – considered a priority by 81.6 per cent of respondents – would overcome the technological barriers to the entry of younger medical practitioners into the aged care sector.”
The survey received 731 responses from AMA members, but the organisation warned that as the responses were voluntary, it was possible that a particular type of respondent was over-represented in the survey data.
It also warned that the questions were framed in order to give expression to frustrations, so a greater proportion of negative responses toward providing medical care to older Australians was expected than positive ones.
The report is available from the AMA website.
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