Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Canberra Home Doctor Service

Many of you may be aware of the new after-hours primary health care service the National Home Doctor Service. 

HCCA met with staff from the Home Doctor Service to find out more about what it can offer in-terms of after-hours care and ask about any issues we could possibly see with their model of care and business model.

The National Home Doctor Service is a pre-existing that has been running for over 40 years in other states and territories with the service running in Canberra since August this year.

The Home Doctor Service provides house calls to people living in the ACT and surrounding areas in the after hours period. 

This is a bulk-billed service for those with a medicare card or those who are part of the Global Assistance Program (for example international students) with no out-of-pocket-cost to the consumer. If you do not have a medicare card there is a flat rate of $200 per hour, but they are looking at working with private health insurers to try to potentially cover people without medicare cards.

This ABC news video released at the start of August explains the billing model and explores the notion that this type of billing may not be the most cost- effective way to spend the health dollar. We asked the Home Doctor Service about this, particularly in relation to whether their call centre referred people to other ACT after-hours services like the Walk-in Centres. Essentially their business model relies on medicare after-hours billing code and they do not refer to other services if they can be seen by the house call doctors, however call centre staff do triage callers and refer them to emergency services if needed.

The Home Doctor Service currently works in both private homes and in residential aged care facilities. They provide electronic health care summaries to peoples regular General Practitioners or GP practices by 8 am the day after receiving the house call. They are also currently set up to upload directly to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, however this is not yet active.

As of September this year the service employed eight local Canberra doctors and two experienced Melbourne locums to help guide the new practice. The number of doctors is likely to have gone up due to the high demand for these services.

HCCA asked the the Home Doctor Service about quality and safety assurance and the use of consumer feedback and was informed that they have an 80% approval rating from feedback provided via e-mail from users. They have Clinical Governance through a Canberra based doctor and are developing a Clinical Governance Committee for the ACT. HCCA has asked that they consider having a consumer representative on this committee.

The Home Doctor Service aims to see people within 3 hours of receiving a call, however due to the huge demand in the ACT the wait may be longer. The Home Doctor Service also informed us that those using the service tended to be sicker than usual presentations in other states and territories. HCCA believes this is demand is likely to be due to the history of under service in primary health care and after-hours services to the ACT community.

Have you used this service? We are always interested to hear about your experiences and to feed this important information to service providers to ensure continuous improvement!

Let us know what you think!

We are open to hearing whether this new service meets the needs of consumers in the ACT and provides better access to after-hours primary care.

Eleanor Kerdo
Policy Officer  


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