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Why primary care should be part of your Covid-19 strategy—and how to build those partnerships

April 30, 2020

    Every health system leader I've spoken with recently is concerned we may risk losing sight of patients with long-term conditions because of our (understandable) focus on Covid-19. It's not intentional, but the need to support these patient means we'll probably rely now more than ever on our colleagues in primary care.

    The primary partnership: How to work with GPs to transform care

    We're already seeing evidence of this taking place in England where Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are stepping up in their role as care hubs, and we've seen similar stories in Canada and Australia.

    Successful systems have started by taking a step back from contracts and resource allocation audits to first reframe the way they intend to partner together. They've realised that they have to master the fundamentals of how to work together, and agree on it, completely—for the long-term. Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service (HHS) in Australia developed care compacts to solidify these principles.

    How Gold Coast used care compacts to build a foundation for partnership

    Gold Coast HHS had a vision for an integrated health system to address the needs of their complex, high-risk patient population through collaboration with primary care. The organisation spent 18 months solidifying buy-in from clinicians across the continuum, and driving change management for GPs and specialists involved.  

    After laying the groundwork, Gold Coast sought to develop agreements—or care compacts—with each clinician involved. Its care compacts, which outlined roles and responsibilities between GPs and the health service, solidifying the partnership between Gold Coast and primary care. In addition, Gold Coast has now received approval for a new risk-based funding model, to enable even more partnership-based planning. Gold Coast's full story is in our research report on partnering with primary care, which you can access online or by emailing me.

    How to scale care compacts—fast

    In our current environment, I recognise 18 months is a long time. But this kind of approach can be fast-tracked—as evidenced by the fact that today, this kind of partnership is happening almost by default. All the more reason, then, to use a care compact to capture what's different and what's working to ensure these new, more collaborative ways of working stick!

    To identify what elements to prioritise in your care compact, I recommend starting with a simple survey, like the one pictured below, to understand the current lie of the land. This quick evaluation will help identify the biggest coordination gaps between primary care and acute care—which should then serve as your start point for what to partner on first.

    Currently, it's just not possible to spend 18 months getting the partnership foundations right. A quick survey with input from GPs and specialists can help you prioritise and accelerate collaborative ways of working to solve challenges facing both groups.

    GP-Specialist Coordination Survey

    I think some of the strong partnerships being formed in a time of crisis, especially between acute care providers and primary care, MUST be maintained when we get through the pandemic.

    But as one executive in a Norwegian health system pointed out last week: 'A crisis can make it easier for us to get to agreement. What was impossible two weeks ago was suddenly possible one week ago. But now we are back to arguing about whether it's possible again'!

    We've put together a toolkit with templates (like the ones outlined in this blog) to bolster the critical  relationship between GPs and specialists over the short- and long-term. Access the toolkit here or email me.

    Covid-19 weekly webinar: What you need to know in 30 minutes

    Every week Advisory Board's Vidal Seegobin will lay out in 30 minutes the most important Covid-19 developments for global health care executives, based on what's happening around the world. If you make time for only one call each week to stay up to date on the pandemic, this is the one. We're hosting two sessions per week to accommodate members around the world.

    Register Now

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