Care planning under the Voluntary Patient Enrolment scheme
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Care planning under the Voluntary Patient Enrolment scheme

This year, the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on the health and welfare of the elderly. And with Australia’s aging population at high risk, patient support is more critical than ever. We spoke with digital health, practice management and medical software expert, Katrina Otto, to uncover how Voluntary Patient Enrolment (VPE) can enable better continuity of care.

The Voluntary Patient Enrolment (VPE) scheme for patients over 70

In the 2019-20 Budget, the Government announced $448.5 million over three years to support voluntary patient enrolment for patients aged 70 years and over. In the 2019-20 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Government announced an additional $7.2 million to extend this to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over.

According to the Department of Health (ADHA), voluntary patient enrolment aims to build on the fee-for-service model and improve both patient and population health outcomes. It supports continuity of care in general practice that is flexible, proactive and preventive in nature.

“This is going to be a significant change, so it’s important for healthcare providers to inform their patients they are aware of these changes and taking steps to work on the implementation,” Katrina said.

Eligibility

GPs in Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) accredited practices will be able to enrol their ‘regular’ patients. A ‘regular patient’ is defined as a patient who has seen the same GP three times in the previous two years.

To be eligible for enrolment a patient must be:

  • Aged 70 years and over; or
  • Indigenous and aged 50 years and over.

Implementation of VPE

With the introduction of VPE, four new MBS items will be established:

  • Mainstream enrolment item ($36) and mainstream quarterly item ($30) – for patients aged 70 years and over; and
  • Indigenous enrolment item ($36) and Indigenous quarterly item ($30) – for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients aged 50 years and over

Once a patient has been enrolled (via claiming the enrolment MBS item), providers will be able to claim the quarterly MBS item. 

Medicare will provide GPs with a list of their enrolled patients in Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) at the end of each quarter to support service delivery and MBS claiming. 

Enrolment

Patient enrolment will be voluntary for both provider and patient. A patient may choose to cancel enrolment or re-enrol with a different GP at any time, though the requirement to have seen that GP three times in the previous two years will remain.

Benefits of the VPE

According to Katrina, there are a number of key benefits to the VPE scheme that can help improve the quality and continuity of care.

“During such a sensitive time, this VPE scheme will hopefully help patients feel like they belong to your practice,” she explained. “The continuity of care formalises existing relationships between patients and practices.”

“It also opens a fresh opportunity for practices who don’t see the same patient very often to engage with them more, and provide proactive preventive healthcare to keep people well. This is particularly important for practitioners working in Indigenous communities.”

Benefits for patients may include:

  • Improved access: such as advice or follow up over the phone or by secure email;
  • Coordination of care:  such as pre-emptive assistance with coordinating teamcare appointments, medication management and care planning
  • Convenience: such as repeat prescriptions or referrals without a face to face appointment; and
  • Proactive care: such as recall systems to remind a patient when they are due for routine tests or immunisations.

Benefits for GPs may include:

  • Ability to formalise existing relationships with regular patients;
  • Payment for non face-to-face services; and
  • Increased ability to provide flexible and personalised care.

The Voluntary Patient Enrolment scheme has been delayed due to COVID-19. However, in these volatile times, it’s critical to create a personalised approach to patient experience, and find ways to encourage your patients to come back to you, because they know you’ll be able to support them in the way they need it the most.