HCHs are existing General Practices (GPs) or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services providing a more systematic, coordinated care for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems. Patients who have been assessed as eligible can choose to enrol on the programme at a HCH and a care plan is then developed covering care to be received from their GP/ Aboriginal health worker and nurses at the GP practice as well as specialists and allied health workers.
Australia has seen a rise in chronic diseases with 50% of the population now having at least one chronic illness and 25% having at least two. The Australian Government believes that the GP led Primary Care system does not deal well with chronic diseases where patients often need services from multiple professionals working in different parts of the healthcare system. The HCH model is expected to reduce the confusion, delays and costs by using a team based coordinated delivery of care.
A key element of the HCH model is that the patient and all members of the care team (within the HCH and outside) have access to the care plan. A minimum requirement for software tools for creating and sharing the care plan have been defined and several companies have already produced software for this purpose. There has been some criticism of the way the software tools market has developed and the lack of independent guidance on choosing such software.
On the whole this trial is of interest not just to Australia but also to all other countries since chronic disease care is a key issue around the world. HCH model is considered consistent with the models used in the UK and New Zealand.
The stage one trial is due to run until November 2019 and has around 200 HCHs, of which the first tranche of 22 started in October 2017.
A brochure on the HCH produced by the Australian Dept of Health is available here.