By Paul Lupo
With the importance and performance of the Tasmanian health system always being at or near the top of the community’s mind, I thought it may be timely to assess the comparable performance of Australia’s healthcare system and ask ourselves what we can do to further improve it.
When compared to other Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries, Australia’s health system is ranked at or near the top, this is due to the higher life expectancy it delivers and the relatively lower GDP spend it takes to get there.
It is therefore of little surprise that data from the 2019 Ipsos Global Views on Healthcare survey, found that Australia has one of the highest satisfaction ratings in the world in terms of those who are satisfied with the quality of healthcare they receive.
Australia has a system that ensures pharmaceuticals are only listed when it is cost effective through our pharmaceutical benefits scheme, a public hospital system structured to cater for emergency and non-elective surgery coupled with a private system that provides for over two thirds of all elective surgery and 50 per cent of all dental procedures amongst other things.
However, while these things are blessings for the Australian health system, the system also has some challenges. The solution is often seen as more beds or hospital activity, with the system heavily reliant on activity-based funding, a model that can result in targeting costs rather than outcomes.
If we are going to maintain or improve our place as having a world-leading health system, the system needs to evolve into one that rewards patient outcomes rather than focusing on outputs and costs, and one which is proactive in educating and informing in the preventive health space rather than being reactive and just responding to ill health.
Hospitals and allied health services tend to work in clinical silos where often the patient is the conduit between doctors and treatment providers. Because of this it can sometimes be ineffective in reducing preventable hospitalisation and medication mishaps.
So rather than just looking at what is wrong with the system, it is also important for participants in the health system to ask themselves what sort of health system do we want to aspire to and what part can we play in creating positive change?
As a private health insurer, St.LukesHealth has started taking the steps to transition from simply a funder of sickness to being a funder of wellness for our members. To do this we are adopting innovative ideas that deliver value to our members. It is a person-centric approach so that we partner with our members in their health journey, rather than be a passive cog in the machine.
While private health insurance has experienced an increase in those who are claiming and has watched as chronic disease continues to burden the health system, we have not sat idle waiting for industry reform. We have looked at ways to provide care outside of the hospital setting so that our members can better manage their conditions, in the comfort of their own homes.
For St.LukesHealth, we have done this through our Advanced Preventive Care Program, which helps participants through the assistance of a nurse, to maintain and improve their overall health and independence by looking at their emotional, physical, social and environmental health.
We have disrupted the status-quo by providing our expectant parents with a Northern Tasmania Private Post-Natal Program that sees them spend time outside of the hospital setting with the support of midwives and lactation consultants.
And St.LukesHealth has provided our members with the educational resources and innovative tools like the mobile app Snug so that they can actively be involved in managing their own health.
The private sector has a continuing large role to play in creating positive change within our health system and as a private health insurer, St.LukesHealth is aspiring to create a health system where the person always comes first.
So, I ask you, what sort of health system does Tasmania want to aspire to?