By Paul Lupo
I recently had the pleasure of hearing world-renowned researcher and Launceston physiotherapist Ianthe Boden speak.
Her talk centred around a new frontier of healthcare that not only looks at getting a patient back on their feet and in good health sooner, but also alleviates the pressure on the public purse by reducing a patient’s potential days in hospital.
In case you missed it, Ianthe’s research looked at providing patients who have abdominal surgery with exercise rehabilitation programs as soon as they come out of surgery.
The research found that those who were active in their care and were educated on why they should receive physiotherapy immediately after surgery were 50 per cent less likely to develop chest infections or potentially pneumonia and were in hospital for three days less than those who opted not to participate in an active recovery.
It was a thought-provoking presentation that got me thinking about how health might be delivered in the future – not just in hospitals, but at home where the person is in control of their health.
In April 2019, the Australian Government increased funding for Tasmanian public hospitals from $425 million to $525 million – in addition to the $730.4 million allocated to the Mersey Community Hospital.
This also came in the same year the Tasmanian Government allocated more than a third of its budget to the health spend to help alleviate pressures around mental health, infrastructure and elective surgery waiting lists.
These same challenges are also faced by private health insurance members through increased premiums driven by increasing healthcare costs and more frequent presentations at hospitals.
Why such a high spend rate you ask? It’s because in Tasmania we are older and sicker than our mainland counterparts with below average health literacy.
In Tasmania, we also have the challenge of having some of the worst chronic disease burdens in the country and we have an ageing population, with the median age of Tasmanians five years above the national average.
We also know Tasmanians are vulnerable with the added pressures of rising household debt while wage growth is weak.
But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse. We are all responsible for our own health, not the bureaucrats.
While governments at all levels and insurers can continue to allocate money to the health system, nothing will change unless our attitudes and accountability towards health change.
Digital platforms like My Health Record (MyHR) make it easier for health providers to have visibility over our health information and share it with other health providers.
However, for this to work as it should, you need to ask our health professionals to upload our consultation records to MyHR every time we see them.
Imagine then if you could pair this information with your fitness device, home device or blood pressure device to give you a more holistic overview of your health, that you could then share with your doctor, specialist or carer.
Now, that is powerful stuff that not only will lead to better outcomes but will meaningfully assist a person on their healthcare journey and potentially reduce preventable hospitalisations.
This month, St.LukesHealth unveiled a smartphone platform to its members that allows them to be an active participant in their healthcare.
The app, Snug, is an essential tool in allowing those with illness to manage medications or keep track of health readings such as blood pressure readings from the convenience of their smartphone.
Snug also allows individuals to create a Circle of Care or emergency contact that will alert others if a health measure reading is outside a normal range, rather than reaching a situation where you have to call an ambulance.
For those who are healthy or have young families, it creates a health passport for life where you will never lose your medical data again.
Snug is an engaging tool that will no doubt assist in healthcare delivery while allowing a person to see the “cause” and “effects” of their health behaviour.
We can’t continue to rely just on the public purse or suffer increased premiums to fix our own health.
We must push to have greater patient engagement in healthcare and ensure people are empowered to understand how they can make better decisions around their health.
Now that’s the future.