The Australian health care system is facing many challenges as a result of an ageing population, rising rates of chronic and complex disease and a strong demand from consumers for more and higher quality health care services. A high performing and adequately resourced primary health care sector is needed to address these challenges and produce better population health outcomes and sustainable health care funding into the future.
Internationally there is emerging evidence that general practice services that promote (1) relational continuity of care (seeing the same GP consistently), (2) longer GP consultations, (3) assertive follow-up of patients following discharge from hospital and (4) same day appointments for children experiencing acute conditions, are associated with better patient health outcomes including lower risk of hospitalisation and decreased use of expensive health care services such as pathology services, diagnostic imaging and medications.
Whether these research findings generalise to the Australian context is not known and nor is it clear which Australian patient cohorts might most benefit from these interventions. High quality research is required to allow better insights into the delivery of general practice patient care.
Flinders University has been funded by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (through the Commonwealth Department of Health) to conduct a methodologically rigorous randomised controlled trial to test whether Australian general practices that are assisted (logistically and financially) to deliver these four interventions do in fact produce better patient health outcomes and improved (cost effective) health service use.
The trial titled “Flinders QUEST (QUality Enhanced general practice Services Trial)” will be implemented in 20 South Australian general practices and will recruit approximately 1100 participants. Practices will be randomly allocated to either an Intervention or Control group. Intervention practices will deliver enhanced services to three specific cohorts of people at risk of poor health outcomes (elderly people; people with chronic or complex disease; and children and adolescents under 17 years of age).
The results from this research will be used by policy makers to support decision making, inform resource allocation, and empower Australian primary care providers to make systematic improvements.