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New guide for treating COVID patients at home


Matt Woodley


17/11/2021 1:31:16 PM

The RACGP has released home-care guidelines for COVID patients as GPs prepare to take a more active role in community-based care.

GP conducting video consultation.
It’s estimated around 80% of COVID patients experience only mild symptoms and can be appropriately cared for in their homes.

With parts of Australia pushing closer to fully easing restrictions, general practice is set to take a leading role managing an expected uptick in COVID-positive patients.
 
But while the Federal Government has provided some support via additional funding to help facilitate face-to-face consultations, GPs have also been concerned about a lack of clarity over their expanded new role.
 
In response, the RACGP has produced updated guidelines designed to help GPs care for COVID-19 patients in their home, which college President Dr Karen Price says have been released at a vital time.
 
‘COVID-19 case numbers are set to spike across Australia and we must be prepared,’ she said.
 
‘Our hospitals are already under the pump and the workload will only grow, including caring for unvaccinated patients suffering from severe effects of COVID-19 and playing catch-up after delays in elective surgery and people putting off routine healthcare during the pandemic.
 
‘So the mission in front of us is to do everything we can to keep people out of hospital and care for most COVID-19-positive patients in their own homes.’
 
Dr Price said caring for COVID patients in homes, residential aged care facilities and supported accommodation ‘makes sense’ for a number of reasons.
 
‘Some 80% of COVID-19-positive patients will only experience mild symptoms and can be appropriately cared for in their homes,’ she said.
 
‘Patients can receive holistic care from a GP in the comfort of their own home, and we can minimise the impact on our entire healthcare system, including freeing up hospital beds for those with severe illness and other non-COVID-19 related healthcare needs.
 
‘It also minimises the risk of transmission in crowded hospitals.’
 
The updated Home-care guidelines for patients with COVID-19 include advice and information on: 

  • supporting patients through a COVID-19 diagnosis
  • determining medical and social risk factors and disease severity
  • determining home-care suitability and the appropriate monitoring protocol
  • escalating care where necessary.
The guidance was drafted in consultation with the RACGP’s COVID-19 Working Group, GP clinicians, the HealthPathways community, members of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and medical defence organisations.
 
But even though GPs have the capacity to assume a larger role in community COVID care, Dr Price says appropriate support must also be in place to help clinicians should a patient’s condition deteriorate.
 
‘Currently, most patients being cared for outside of the hospital system have mild illness,’ she said.
 
‘However, as the country opens up and case numbers rise, increasingly people with moderate disease may be cared for under this model.  
 
‘We must ensure patients receive the care and support they need based on their individual circumstances as well as escalation pathways for admission to hospital if required.’
 
Australia currently has more than 17,000 active COVID cases, only 632 of whom are hospitalised, according to the Department of Health.
 
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