22 June 2020
Voluntary patient enrolment scheme delayed by pandemic
Welcome to The Medical Republic‘s live COVID-19 blog.
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- Afternoon update: COVID-19 delays introduction of voluntary patient enrolment scheme.
- Morning update: Oman uses AI to fight COVID-19, and the US NIH shuts down its hydroxychloroquine study.
- Rising COVID-19 cases in Victoria prompt return to partial lockdown.
- TMR’s Penny Durham writes: A long-awaited scheme to pay practices for chronic care of elderly patients, which was due to start on July 1, has been delayed for the foreseeable future.
Voluntary patient enrolment was one of the big-ticket items for GPs in the 2019 budget, as it signalled the start of a move away from strictly fee-for-service towards a mixed model more suitable for chronic care. The budget allotted $450 million over three years for quarterly payments to practices for every patient over 70 enrolled with the practice, who could then receive more continuous care through, for example, phone calls.
That was before COVID-19 came along and forced the inclusion of rebates telehealth under Medicare.
The scheme, which was amended to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients over 50, was due to start on July 1. Now some eagle-eyed observers have noticed the disappearance of the information page from the Federal Health Department website. It’s been reported that the idea has been junked altogether, since compensation for telehealth was its big drawcard.
The department denies this, and says the program is being rethought but will no longer start on July 1.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and response activities, the Government is currently working with health and system experts to review implementation details and consider options for refinement,” the health department told TMR. “As such, voluntary patient enrolment will no longer commence on 1 July 2020. Further information will be made available as soon as possible.”
We’ll keep an eye out.
- The Sultanate of Oman has introduced tracking bracelets for COVID-19-positive individuals, to make sure they comply with home quarantine, according to a report in the latest World Health Organisation’s pandemic situation report.
Oman has more than 25,000 reported cases of infection with a population of around 4.8 million. In an attempt to get control of the situation, the nation is also implementing an artificial intelligence-based mobile app which not only provides multilingual evidence-based information for its citizens, but also helps public health professionals to stratify the risk in suspected cases.
- The US National Institutes of Health has halted its trial of hydroxychloroquine after an interim analysis found the drug was unlikely to benefit patients hospitalised with COVID-19.
The blinded, placebo-controlled randomised trial had already enrolled more than 470 patients who were hospitalised or admitted to the emergency department with COVID-19. The NIH stressed that the analysis did not suggest an excess of harm associated with the anti-malarial drug.
Meanwhile, Australia’s National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce said hydroxychloroquine should not be used for post-exposure prophylaxis against COVID-19 unless it was in the context of a randomised clinical trial.
- Concern about a rising number of COVID-19 cases has prompted Victorian premier Dan Andrews to return the state to partial lockdown over the weekend.
Victoria has recorded more than 100 new cases in the past week; largely spread through families and household contacts, and from known hotspots such as Keilor Downs College and the Stamford Plaza Hotel. A number of new cases in school students have been reported, as well as one positive test in an Essendon Football Club player.
Victorians are now limited once again to five household visitors at a time, and no more than 10 people gathering publicly. Premier Andrews also asked that people who can work from home should do so, and that the community limit visitations and travel as much as possible.
“We have been very successful so far in avoiding the worst consequences of this disease and we cannot let our good work so far go to waste,” he said in a statement.
Elsewhere in Australia, NSW and WA are the only other states showing new cases over the weekend. Here is the latest tally of confirmed COVID-19 infections around the country:
National – 7461, with 102 deaths and 6896 recovered
ACT – 108
NSW – 3149
NT – 29
QLD – 1066
SA – 440
TAS – 228
VIC – 1836
WA – 605