Chronic and complex conditions – supporting patient care

New Medicare items for longer consultations by consultant physicians will enable more patients with chronic and complex conditions to receive assessment and treatment in one visit.

Page last updated: 08 May 2007

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Why is this important?

  • The incidence of chronic and complex disease is expected to continue rising with the ageing of the population. Based on 2004-05 figures more than 1.9 million people aged 65 years and over had three or more long-term conditions. Chronic disease is also prevalent among the very young. Approximately 400,000 children aged 0-14 years are affected.
  • The Government will fund new Medicare items that better reflect the additional time and complexity involved in treating patients with chronic and multiple illnesses. The Medicare rebate will be available for specialist doctors, known as consultant physicians, who deal with patients with complex needs. The rebates for consultations longer than 45 minutes will be $178.75 for admitted hospital patients and $202.60 for patients seen at the practitioner’s rooms.
  • A patient with complex diabetes, for example, could be referred by their family practitioner to a consultant physician who would then assess, manage and advise on the complexities of diabetes as well as other related medical issues such as kidney disease, eye problems and heart conditions.

Who will benefit?

  • The new Medicare item provides an incentive for consultant physicians to treat patients with multiple problems in one longer session, when needed. People will be able to receive a more comprehensive assessment and treatment in one visit rather than requiring several appointments with different doctors.
  • Currently most patients seeing a consultant physician are treated on a one-off basis to resolve a particular issue. This measure will assist patients in maintaining a longer relationship with their physicians to improve their health.

What funding is the Government committing to the initiative?

  • $291.3 million in new funding will be provided over four years.

What have we done in the past?

  • In 2005-06 almost 8 million consultations were provided by consultant physicians under Medicare, with the Government providing $542 million in rebates to patients for these services.
  • In 2004 Medicare items for Chronic Disease Management by GPs and rebates for allied health services for patients were introduced. This measure will ensure that these patients will be able to access comprehensive care by specialised practitioners where their needs are beyond the scope of the GP.

When will the initiative conclude?

  • This is an ongoing initiative.

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