A new after-hours consult-a-doctor-by-phone service is the latest technique being employed to deter people from heading to Waikato Hospital's emergency department en masse.
And those who use the dial-a-doc scheme are being given an extra carrot to do so in the form of a subsidy that they get if they do have to go to an A&E clinic to get their ailment seen to.
The after-hours telephone triage service has been hailed the first of its kind in New Zealand. It was launched yesterday by the Midlands Health Network.
Chief executive John Macaskill-Smith said part of the incentive was to reward people for not going to the emergency department unnecessarily and clogging the system.
The after-hours service is mostly funded by the Waikato District Health Board and partly-funded by primary health organisations. The service cost $185,000 to establish and has an annual ongoing cost of $295,272.
Since September, the network has offered patients enrolled at general practices in Hamilton and surrounding areas 24-hour access to healthcare support and advice, by calling their general practice.
Patients ringing after hours with a clinical query or needing medical advice are passed on to a Healthline nurse, who follows a formal assessment and clinical triage process.
With the new service, if the nurse decides a patient needs further medical care, they will be able to speak free of charge to a doctor based at Anglesea Clinic.
If the patient then needs to be seen in person, they will receive a subsidy to visit their nearest accident and medical clinic.
The subsidy means the fee charged to the patient at the clinic will be equivalent to the fee charged by general practices for their enrolled patients.
- © Fairfax NZ News