How GP care plans benefit patients
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How GP care plans benefit patients

According to the Australian Medical Association (AMA), GPs are the most visited health professional, with about 85% of the population seeing a GP at least once a year. 

With chronic conditions on the rise, this places a considerable strain on both GPs and on the broader Australian health system. Some 50% of GP consultations now involve patients with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.  

GP Management Plans (GPMPs) have been developed under the Medicare Benefits Scheme to provide a more structured approach to caring for patients with chronic diseases. The idea is to help practitioners plan and coordinate the care of people with chronic conditions, to improve outcomes and reduce the need for multiple unscheduled consultations or unnecessary hospitalisations 

Care plans help record comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information about a patient’s condition and treatment to help encourage the patient to take responsibility for their care. This is vital in the management of chronic conditions.  

Patients can better understand their condition and how to manage it 

As many GPs know, when patients have a better understanding of their condition, it can greatly improve their health outcomes. Patients armed with more information and support about their condition often feel empowered to help manage their treatment. Care plans do this by ensuring the patient is involved in the development of the plan, agrees to the plan, and receives a copy of the plan. All this empowers the patient with understanding and maps out their next best actions to take. 

Supporting better coordinated care 

Care plans also allow for better coordination of practitioners and allied health workers treating patients. While GPMPs cover single GP care plans, Team Care Arrangements (TCA) are also available when multidisciplinary teams are needed to manage a condition. Care plans set out treatments, appointments, describe the patient’s healthcare needs, health problems and relevant conditions. They also include management goals and actions for the patient, treatment and services the patient will need, arrangements for providing the treatment and services, and arrangements to review the plan every three months. This is far more structured and allows for better planning than the ad hoc approach of a patient turning up at a hospital or medical centre when their conditions worsens. 

Care plans also offer better access to Medicare rebates for patients 

The structured approach of care plans promotes focused treatment, and aims to achieve better outcomes for patients. Patients get ongoing support for their condition, rather than a stop-start approach. It also means patients receive care from the same GP or team, promoting continuity of care and reducing the risks of treatment interactions. 

Chronic conditions create enormous strain on GPs and the health care system when they are not managed with a long-term view. The AMA reports the cost of chronic disease is responsible for at least 10% of preventable hospital stays. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare similarly reports in 2007-08 there were 33.6 potentially preventable admissions per 1,000 people with half of those due to chronic conditions. 

Coordinated Care Trials in Queensland in 2008 demonstrated coordinated care reduced hospital admissions by up to 25%, reduced inpatient costs by 26%, reduced patients rate of depression and improved their quality of life. By providing a long-term structured approach which is reviewed regularly, care plans can greatly reduce the number of unnecessary GP and hospital visits. 

A future of care supporting better patient outcomes 

Care plans promote positive outcomes for both patients and GPs by providing long-term management of chronic conditions. These types of plans do this by providing multiple benefits, including securing patient involvement in their own health outcomes, providing a structured plan for better health planning, better coordination of treatment, all while reducing the strain on both GPs and the health system.