The Winter Strategy – a Multifaceted Integrated Care Intervention to Support People with Chronic and Complex Care Needs during the Australian Winter Period
International Journal of Integrated Care
Introduction: Health care demands increase over the winter period, especially for people with chronic diseases. Hospital avoidance programs have potential to address seasonal surges. Methods: An integrated care intervention was provided to patients at high risk of hospitalisation during the 2017 and 2018 winters in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Patients received increased support including general practice sick day action plans, automated admission notifications to the general practitioner, and care coordination services. Outcomes were provider and patient experience and preventable hospitalisation rates. Results: The program enrolled 1244 participating patients from 37 general practices with at least 12 months follow-up. It was associated with marked improvements in provider and patient experience. However, when compared to a propensity score matched control group there was no difference in hospital utilisation or emergency presentation rates. Discussion and Conclusion: An integrated care strategy to address chronic care needs of patients in winter was well received by practitioners and patients, but did not translate to changes in hospital utilisation or emergency presentation rates. Areas for improvement include: strengthening inter-professional engagement between hospital, specialists and primary care providers, more tailored support services for patients with complex health needs, and a more expansive set of process measures beyond hospital and emergency utilisation to assess impact.
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National Health and Medical Research Council