Medicare and chronic disease management: integrated care as an exceptional circumstance? Academic Article uri icon


  • Chronic disease represents a significant challenge to the design and reform of the Australian healthcare system. The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) provides a framework of numerous chronic disease management programs; however, their use at the patient level is complex. This analysis of the MBS chronic disease framework uses a hypothetical case study of a diabetic patient (with disease-related complications and a complex psychosocial background) to illustrate the difficulties in delivering appropriate multidisciplinary chronic disease care under the MBS. The complexities at each step – from care planning, service provision, and monitoring and review – are described, as are the intricacies involved in providing patient care under different MBS programs as well as those in the broader health and community care system. As demonstrated by this case study, under certain circumstances the provision of truly integrated care to this hypothetical patient would constitute an ‘exceptional circumstance’ under the MBS. Although quality improvement efforts can improve functioning within the limitations of the current system, system-wide reforms are necessary to overcome complexity and fragmentation. What is known about the topic?Chronic disease management requires optimal health system design to provide appropriate patient care. In Australia, the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) provides chronic disease-focussed programs, but the multitude of available programs and items are administratively complex, overlapping and subject to claiming incompatibilities. What does this paper add? This paper illustrates the complexity of the various MBS programs for chronic disease management using a case study of the potential service response to a single diabetic patient with disease-related complications and a complex psychosocial background. This analysis illustrates the manifold problematic interactions and incompatibilities that may arise in relation to this hypothetical patient. What are the implications for practitioners?Under the current MBS framework, providing patients with optimum chronic disease management requires both clinical and administrative skill on the part of GPs. Time spent on administrative requirements is time away from clinical care. Although quality improvement efforts may improve functioning within the existing system to a certain extent, broader system reforms are necessary to support optimal chronic disease management in Australia.

publication date

  • 2010