People from Bendigo spent 10,405 days in hospital in 2015-16 for potentially preventable conditions, according to new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
There were 2639 potentially preventable hospitalisations of Bendigonians for a variety of maladies including kidney and urinary tract infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the lungs and dental conditions.
Bendionians spent on average 3.7 days in hospital for conditions that could have been treated earlier, though it was higher for a number of health problems including congestive heart failure (6.8 days), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (4.5 days), diabetes (5.5 days) and cellulitis (4.1 days).
Bendigo Health deputy chief medical officer Nicola Yuen said the data was a snapshot into the relationship between primary health care providers on the one hand, and hospitals on the other.
She said everyone in the health care system had an interest in keeping people out of hospital and work was underway to ensure GPs and primary health care groups were working more closely with hospitals.
That work included the Bendigo hospital supporting GPs to look after patients more effectively in the community.
The region’s health care providers were also increasing their focus on ‘telemedicine’. The Bendigo hospital was currently trialing such services, with patients video calling specialists from home, work or general practices.
Other options health care providers were considering included making sure people were seeing the same GP.
“Certainly that continuity with a GP seems to be really important (in reducing preventable hospitalisations),” Dr Yuen said.
She said more work needed to be done to integrate health and social care.
“There’s a lot of hospital admissions that we see because people don’t have appropriate social set ups to go home to,” she said.
“It’s ‘oh look, we could probably get you care in the home, except you don’t have anyone with you, there’s no one to look after you’ – all those little things that need to be sorted out.”
Ultimately, the emphasis needed to be on reducing the burden of chronic disease through encouraging healthy lifestyles, Dr Yuen said.
“Lose weight, stop smoking, do some exercise and see a GP to manage all those issues like high blood pressure.
“(Reducing poor lifestyle factors) probably has more far reaching consequences than anything we can do.”