Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Australian Medicare Local Alliance - National Primary Health Care Conference

National Primary Health Care Conference
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, November 13-15, 2013

This conference was attended by over 1400 delegates from around the country and it’s overarching theme was “Keeping People Well and Out of Hospital.”
As well as a national convention for Medicare Locals there were a number of pre conference workshops in the key areas of the ML population health focus such as Indigenous Health, a Mental Health Stakeholder forum, Coordinated Care for Veterans, Nursing in General Practice and eHealth.
The main conference, chaired by Norman Swan (ABC Health Report) featured three plenary sessions with keynote speakers:
·         Mike Farrar, CBE, CEO National Health Service Confederation (UK) spoke about the global challenges of improving primary health care and making it a priority of health spending, reorientating spending from acute to primary care. He also advocated for improving connections with patients in their own care, the sharing of power, recognition of the capabilities of individuals and families.
·         Ron Calvert, CEO Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service,( also from the NHS in the UK) spoke about his experiences of turning around a small hospital in Trafford with the involvement of local GPs. His challenge was how to involve the local user community in the redevelopment of the service.
·         Michael Georgeff, CEO Precedence Health Care and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, discussed the challenges of maintaining the momentum of the eHealth initiative, begun in 2008. He noted that it hasn’t had the expected impact and a focus on process suggested that for eHealth to have good outcomes there needs to be a focus on process rather than data, maximised connectivity and open systems, digital roadways, management of complexity with bottom up innovation and design of the market to drive innovation.
·         Joanne Shaw, Chair of NHS Direct, which provides remote and health advice and information services via phone, web and mobile channels, to patients and the public in the UK.

During a panel discussion about what the  future holds for  GP practice,  Professor Clare Jackson (ML and College of GPs) talked about the emerging primary health care environment as one of uncertainty about funding models, higher accountability, practice based data sharing, higher performance scrutiny, workforce reform, and challenges of managing clinical complexity.

The conference sessions were divided into three themes, run as concurrent sessions:
·         Healthy Communities
·         Connecting Care
·         Fostering Capacity

There were a range of presentations under each theme highlighting the diversity of interdisciplinary  project work being done under the rubric of the Medicare Locals.

Presentations of particular interest (given limits to attending several concurrent sessions!):
·         Identifying local community health needs to enhance population health planning. Hunter ML.
·         The Chronic Disease Pathways Project, Inner East Melbourne ML
·         Transitions of Care between Acute care and Primary care, Paresh Dawda, APHCRI
·         Connecting Care Across Aged Care Services, a gap analysis in Western Sydney ML area.
·         Asylum Seeker Health, SE Melbourne ML with Monash Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Clinic and Red Cross.
·         Aboriginal men and racism in health services.

The focus of the majority of the presentations was on improving the connectedness and integration of primary health care services to achieve better health outcomes for specific populations at the local level. It was disappointing that the consumer/patient experience and knowledge was often not taken into account as a contributing factor in achieving these outcomes.
For more information about the conference go to their website:

Sue Andrews

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