The trending integration of medical centres and residential aged care facilities (RACF) is gaining traction at a rapid rate, and for good reason: the two most talked about sub-sectors in the national healthcare ecosystem marry perfectly. 

Earlier this year, our Healthcare & Social Infrastructure team discussed the topic with Tieran Kimber of Marchese Partners. Click here to watch the video interview. 

As Australia’s population continues to age, the prevalence of chronic healthcare conditions is placing mounting pressure on the national healthcare system. These complex needs require a range of medical professionals, with services not just limited to general practitioners but also specialists, community services and more.

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To the benefit of their residents, a handful of RACF providers have explored existing synergies between medical centre and aged care business operations in recent years. However, this movement towards integration is only now beginning to enter mainstream thinking – and the subsequent planning of new developments and extensions. Catalysed by the events of 2020 and beyond, this has accelerated the movement – somewhat of a silver lining for our ageing population. (Models of Integrated Care, Health and Housing 2020) 

Some of the key benefits of medical centre integration for residents and the wider community include:

1. Security of immediate and available medical services, no callout waiting periods);
2. Creation of an integrated community – with services available to the wider local population, operators can become part of the community and not just located in it; and  
3. Rapid administration for vaccination programs, be it annual flu shots or other.

Even more important to consider are the challenges a fragmented system could cause our country’s elderly residents. Despite the best efforts and intentions of providers and healthcare professionals, this could be any one of the following: 

1. Poor communication between providers and medical professionals leading to, and increased likelihood of, error;
2. Low satisfaction of the resident and and/or their family; and 
3. Shifting or increased costs placed on others during care administration.  

Ultimately, there is no universal formula which can be applied to guarantee successful integration of care and it is widely accepted that this is not a realistic goal to achieve. 

As discussed in our video interview with Tieran Kimber of Marchese Partners, the RACF should not be the determining factor in the creation of a medical centre but more the needs of the wider community, which will in-turn provide a greater spectrum of care for residents. While many aged care residents may suffer from multiple chronic illness and ailments requiring an array of professionals outside of what can be supplied, creating a service offering with widespread general care (GP, Pathology, Physiotherapy, etc.) will greatly benefit a substantial volume of residents and the wider community. 

While integration will benefit providers’ community perception and bottom line, this is not the purpose of this opinion piece. Importantly, we are highlighting and drawing attention to a trend which we predict will emerge across Australia – and at a rapid rate. 

While operational challenges and models of care selection (GP-centred/coordinator-centred/nurse led, etc.) are evident and each operator will likely form their own view on the best approach, it is clear such integration is the way forward for our country’s ageing population.

For detailed research into the topic and to be connected with the relevant experienced experts in the field, feel free to contact our specialist Healthcare & Social Infrastructure team anytime.