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Are you getting the preventive health care you need?

Using big data to find the best health care for older Australians.

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  • Health
  • Read Time: 4 mins

Older Australians seeking aged-care-home support have been found to use three health care pathways, each with different mortality results: 

  1. Those who have preventive or multidisciplinary health care have the lowest mortality. This includes: health assessments, chronic disease management plans or multidisciplinary care plans, medication reviews and allied health services.

  2. People who see a GP a few times a year and receive minimal other services have mid-level mortality. This is likely due to them having fewer health issues.

  3. People who see a GP frequently, including urgent after-hours consultations, have the highest mortality. This may be because they have declining health and/or because their health care is not well managed. 

These are some of the preliminary findings of research being undertaken by the Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA) at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.  

The Director, Professor Maria Inacio, says it is reassuring to know that preventive health care can have a positive impact. 

“We need to give people in aged care the best quality of life and the best experience they can have,” she said. 

How much preventive health care do older people get?

The study shows that older people do not get as much preventive health care as they should. 

Professor Inacio says residents should: 

  • have chronic disease management plans, a health assessment and a medication review every year, and 

  • get more mental health and allied health services. 

“This may be enough to keep older people healthy with a stable level of functional capacity and prevent cognitive decline,” she said. 

Only about half of the people who are eligible for chronic disease management plans get them. 

The use of other services is even lower, the research found. 

“This doesn't change much or gets worse once they enter aged care settings, which is unfortunate,” Professor Inacio said. 

Other preliminary findings indicate more coordinated and comprehensive primary health care could improve the health of older people – resulting in the lower risk of hospitalisations and other health events, as well as “immense cost savings.” 

ROSA was established in 2017 and combines health-care and aged-care data from around Australia – providing a picture of the nation’s ageing pathways for the first time. 

Older people have more frailty, falls, chronic conditions and co-existing diseases. This means they have a high risk of emergency department presentations and hospital admissions. 

"We want to find out how much primary health care older people get. We also want to know how care changes when people enter aged-care facilities,” Professor Inacio said.

Which health-care services are best?

ROSA found that while 93 per cent of people in aged care facilities visit a GP about 25 times a year, the results of these visits or if they meet older people’s needs is unknown. 

To answer that question, ROSA is examining the relationship of primary health care services with: 

  • hospitalisations 

  • subsequent health encounters 

  • the length of stay at home or in residential care. 

For further reading: Using Big Data to Find the Best Health Care for Older Australians 

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