Home doctors prevent emergency department overload
QUEENSLANDERS have been praised for using after-hours home doctor services to relieve pressure on emergency departments.
It's estimated that using home doctors can save the state health system $100 million.
A new home doctor call centre on the Gold Coast - the National Home Doctor Service Patient Contact Centre - was officially opened by Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick in late-November.
The service's executive chairman, Paul Mirabelle, said new research by Deloitte Access Economics showed Queenslanders were leading the way on using home doctor services to treat non-emergencies outside of business hours.
"In the past year there have been 762,198 after-hours home doctor visits in Queensland - the highest number for any state or territory across Australia," he said.
"This is good news for Queensland, as the more patients we can treat in their homes, rather than in emergency departments, the more money we save for the health system.
"The cost of an after-hours home doctor visit to the health system is $128, while the cost of a patient being treated in an emergency department is on average $368 and it's much higher when an ambulance is called.
"The Deloitte Access Economics report finds that without access to after-hours visits by doctors to households and aged-care homes, the cost to the Queensland health system would be $100 million higher over the four years of the budget forward estimates, mainly due to avoided emergency department and ambulance presentations."
The report includes a case study comparing the levels of home visits and low-urgency emergency department presentations in two regions with similar demographics - the Central Coast in New South Wales and the Gold Coast.
On the Gold Coast there were 82 home visits per 1000 people and 19 low-urgency emergency department presentations per one thousand people.
On the Central Coast, where home visits were fewer at two home visits per 1000 people, there were many more low-urgency emergency department cases, at 52 per 1000 people.
"The case study shows that where there is higher use of home visits, as is the case on the Gold Coast, there are fewer low-urgency cases in emergency departments," Mr Mirabelle said.
"Despite the budget savings and benefits to patients, vested interests are pushing for the removal of the Medicare rebate for home doctor visits.
"The association representing home visit doctors has started a campaign to protect home visits, where patients can share their stories about why home visits are an essential Medicare service.
"After-hours home visits are especially important for parents with young children, the elderly and people living with disabilities.
"With the opening of our new contact centre, which will employ more than 100 people, we hope that home doctors can help even more patients on the Gold Coast, relieving pressure on emergency departments in the area."