Subsidies to target specialist outreach services into more remote locations: a national cross-sectional study

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Abstract

Objective. Targeting rural outreach services to areas of highest relative need is challenging because of the higher costs it imposes on health workers to travel longer distances. This paper studied whether subsidies have the potential to
support the provision of specialist outreach services into more remote locations.

Methods. National data about subsidies for medical specialist outreach providers as part of the Wave 7 Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) Survey in 2014.

Results. Nearly half received subsidies: 19% (n = 110) from a formal policy, namely the Australian Government Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF), and 27% (n = 154) from other sources. Subsidised specialists travelled for longer
and visited more remote locations relative to the non-subsidised group. In addition, compared with non-subsidised specialists, RHOF-subsidised specialists worked in priority areas and provided equally regular services they intended to continue, despite visiting more remote locations.

Conclusion. This suggests the RHOF, although limited to one in five specialist outreach providers, is important to increase targeted and stable outreach services in areas of highest relative need. Other subsidies also play a role in facilitating remote service distribution, but may need to be more structured to promote regular, sustained outreach practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-350
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Health Review
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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