The Future of General Practice

In our latest Better Health, Together video, our CEO, Learne Durrington speaks with renowned health economist Dr Stephen Duckett about the pressing need for primary care reform.

He talks about the significant changes since Medicare was established in 1984, particularly the rise in prevalence of chronic health conditions, which is significantly impacting the current performance of the primary care system, of which general practice is the cornerstone.

“When Medicare was introduced, people had much less chronic disease. The world has changed over the past 30 years, but are funding and governance arrangements and systems right for the patients we are seeing now? The short answer is probably not,” Dr Duckett said.

To ensure sustainability, Dr Duckett advocates for changes to primary care funding methods but also the way practices operate, including some form of voluntary patient enrolment and medical home model, and the availability of multidisciplinary care.

He notes practices need to reconsider their operating model, be more networked into the whole system and participate in quality improvement activities.

A stronger focus on prevention is needed, according to Dr Duckett, including taking a population health approach with proactive patient follow up for routine assessments, for example diabetes checks.

Equally, having a multidisciplinary team comprising doctors, nurses and allied health professionals working within the practice will be key to providing holistic care and allowing health professionals to perform the work best suited to their area of expertise, skill up and have more engaging work.

“We know clinician satisfaction comes from working at the top of scope and being able to work with peers and colleagues in other disciplines,” Ms Durrington said.

“And we are in an environment where the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce is but one of the vehicles underway to see what we can do (to reform the primary care system).”

Both Dr Duckett and Ms Durrington are members of the national Strengthening Medicare Taskforce chaired by Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP, whose remit is to recommend improvements that will benefit patients through improved access, greater affordability and better management of chronic conditions in primary care.