Aussie Doctor Urges Government To Overhaul Medicare

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 20 2009 12:35 PM

An Alice Springs doctor has urged the Federal Government to overhaul Medicare to remove disincentives for General Practitioners to conduct longer consultations with patients.

An open letter from Dr Susan Wearne to the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Nicola Roxon MP, is published in this year’s General Practice edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Dr Wearne said Medicare effectively discourages GPs from spending the time with patients needed to obtain comprehensive histories and carry out thorough examinations.

“To maximise the lower generalist income I am entitled to as a GP, I should conduct many consultations that last just over five minutes,” Dr Wearne wrote.

“However, taking a longer history and performing a focused physical examination (neither possible within six minutes) significantly increases my chances of weighing the multitude of factors that might contribute to a diagnosis or problem identification without recourse to expensive investigations.”

Dr Wearne urged Ms Roxon to value the role of generalist doctors, reconsider advice that a seven-tier Rebate structure should be established (which creates a more consistent rebate per minute of the consultation, removing incentives towards consultations of just over 5 minutes) and use holistic cost-benefit analysis to inform health policy.

She said fewer long GP consultations might appear to achieve lower costs for Medicare in the short-term but could have hidden longer-term costs.