Health

Australians at risk embrace high-quality GP care for better health

The findings from a comprehensive year-long study aimed at enhancing GP service quality reveal that patients greatly appreciated the benefits of easier access to their chosen GP, extended consultation periods, and consistent follow-up care after hospital discharge.

The findings from a comprehensive year-long study aimed at enhancing GP service quality reveal that patients greatly appreciated the benefits of easier access to their chosen GP, extended consultation periods, and consistent follow-up care after hospital discharge.

Professor Richard Reed, at the helm of the General Practice Discipline at Flinders University, highlighted the growing importance of GP services amidst Australia’s ageing population, the surge in chronic and complex diseases, and the escalating demand for hospital and other high-cost healthcare services.

“This was a very large trial involving over 1000 patients who had been identified as being at risk of poor health outcomes by their GPs. Two-thirds of patients were 65 years of age or older,” Professor Reed said.

The trial encouraged patients to register with their preferred GP, facilitating general practices to offer these patients priority appointments, longer consultations, and follow-up within a week of hospitalisation.

“General practices received significant financial and logistical support to ensure that the intervention was provided to the highest possible standard during the one-year period of the trial,” Professor Reed added, emphasising the comprehensive support that underpinned the trial’s execution.

Upon concluding the trial, insights were gleaned from interviews with 41 patients and 45 general practice staff. Dr. Sara Javanparast, a Senior Research Fellow and co-author of the study, shared that patients expressed immense gratitude for the prioritised care, which alleviated the rush typically associated with GP visits. GPs, on their part, found that the initiative allowed them more time for preventive care and facilitated deeper discussions about health issues with their patients.

The qualitative feedback from these interviews, according to Professor Reed, enriched the quantitative data collected, offering a holistic view of the trial’s impact. A notable revelation was the perception among many GPs and patients that the trial’s interventions didn’t markedly deviate from pre-trial practices. Instead, it championed a “slow medicine” approach, emphasising comprehensive, unhurried, whole-person care.

This methodology, Professor Reed pointed out, yielded significant benefits, especially for older patients, by reducing emergency department visits and hospital admissions.

“It wasn’t as if we were testing a new wonder drug. Rather the intervention supported a ‘slow medicine’ approach where GPs were able to provide comprehensive and unhurried whole-person care,” he explained.

The trial’s outcomes highlight a pivotal shift towards prioritising quality over quantity in GP care, demonstrating the tangible benefits of providing patient-centred, accessible, and thorough healthcare services.

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