Reducing hospital admissions in remote Australia through the establishment of a palliative and chronic disease respite facility

The high prevalence of complex chronic diseases, limited access to primary care services, and the poor living situations of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians results in increased hospitalisation rates and pressure on tertiary health services. Palliative Care Northern Territory created a flexible, community based, culturally appropriate respite service in Alice Springs. Respite service use and hospital use data was collected 12 months prior to the establishment of the respite facility and 10 after it opened. The respite service met an important unmet need in remote Australia, resulting in a reduction in hospital admissions, mean length of stay, Intensive Care Unit hours and ventilator hours. This overall averaged a saving of $1882.50 per episode for hospital admissions. Two features of the respite facility that may have contributed to the generated savings were the enhanced coordination of care for patients with complex chronic diseases, as well as improved medication compliance and symptom management. Future cost savings from preventable hospitalisations could contribute to the ongoing costs of the respite facility for palliative and chronic disease patients.

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