Aurora Healthcare and Medibank partner to boost access to mental health care

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Medibank has announced a joint venture with mental health provider Aurora Healthcare under which they will deliver an integrated care model.

The model will extend hospital care to incorporate additional support services in the home and other community settings.

The 50-50 joint venture, known as iMH, will initially invest $31 million into three hospitals delivering a combined 153 new mental health beds and out-of-hospital support.

Medibank said the model will focus on providing flexible care pathways including a range of out-of-hospital services such as in-home care, telehealth and care coordination.

The iMH hospitals will look to offer these services with no additional costs for patients with eligible private health insurance, apart from any excess or co-payment that would normally apply. These services are typically not included under a traditional psychiatric model of care in the private system.

Aurora Healthcare will contribute two hospitals in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to iMH, with its Hirondelle Private Hospital in Chatswood to be converted into a 45-bed mental health facility, while Deakin Private Hospital in Canberra will feature 52 beds, including the city’s first dedicated youth private mental health beds.

The joint venture will invest in a new specially designed 56-bed mental health facility to be built in Alexandria, New South Wales.

Joanne Levin will lead iMH as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

A senior executive with the Aurora Healthcare business, she brings to the role extensive commercial and clinical acumen, significant experience in hospital operations and clinical governance, and a strong track record in mental health service development.

Aurora Healthcare (Australia) CEO, Julia Strickland-Bellamy, said, “The model will address the clear unmet demand in the community. In our network alone, the wait list for outpatient psychiatry has been at around 6 months over the past 2 years. Providing people with treatment options beyond what has historically been solely hospital-centric care will help to support greater access, choice and flexibility.

“A patient might access treatment at home or in the community following a hospital admission, or alternatively access these services if a hospital admission is not required in the first instance.

“It’s ultimately about the most appropriate treatment pathway for each individual patient, regardless of their private health insurer. All decisions about their suitability for the model will be made by the patient alongside their doctor and the hospital’s clinical team,” she said.

Medibank Group Executive and CEO of Amplar Health Dr Andrew Wilson, who is also a practising psychiatrist, said the model is designed to support a patient’s longer-term recovery while providing them with the choice of optimal care in the home and community setting.

“As the rate of Australians reporting high levels of psychological distress continues to grow, integrating inpatient and out-of-hospital care helps patients access support when and where they need it,” Dr Wilson said.

“It shouldn’t have to be one or the other. Many patients would benefit from the iMH model, which is designed around their individual needs and circumstances under the direction of their treating psychiatrist,” he said.