The rise of digital technology and the availability of data means that it’s now within the reach for consumers to be critical enablers of change in the healthcare system, a panel of industry experts said.
Speaking at the recent AFR Healthcare Summit, Queensland Health Director-General Michael Walsh said a stronger focus on the consumer will improve the quality and safety of healthcare in Australia, and support a more sustainable local healthcare system.
“Consumers are increasingly becoming activated to drive transformation and innovation in healthcare. As with other sectors, it is the consumer experience that counts the most; not the product or device. It is how the life and health of the consumer is enhanced, that will be the true measure of success,” he said.
“Digital health allows the information asymmetry to be more equalised. As a steward of a large public health system, I’m acutely aware of the need to listen and foster this driving force.”
But, with the structure of the health ecosystem changing to give patients more control over their healthcare, there are steps that government, care providers, clinicians, insurers and patients themselves can take to achieve better patient outcomes sooner in a reimagined healthcare system.
According to Walsh, it is an open, collaborative and measured approach that will deliver the benefits of digital health.
“Government, industry and the diverse healthcare sector have critical roles to play in openly and carefully progressing digital health. In a system where consumers are truly at the centre, the governance of health needs to be better aligned and more enabling of digital health,” he said.
“Although the roles within a healthcare sector and the different levels of government are unlikely to change rapidly… we are seeing a greater shift towards shared investment models alliancing or joint commissioning programs at the local health district and primary health network level. We will see more movement to flexible investment models at a regional level, supported by joint governance.”
NSW Health Chief Information Officer and eHealth NSW Chief Executive Dr Zoran Bolevich added that the organisation recently introduced patient-reported measures to its system.
“There are two types of measures that we collect from patients on a weekly basis; experience measures and outcome measures. Using this, we are now starting to design and help implement the technology platform that will enable us to do that,” he said.
“We have started small, and intend on growing its potential further with industry partnerships. We are also working on using that information for secondary purposes like research. We have to be aware of the need to distill data, otherwise we’ll be overloaded with it.”
[Read more: Deakin Uni launches Institute for Health Transformation | We need to get the digital basics right and quickly: Tim Kelsey]
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said collaboration was a complex journey, but healthcare providers that don’t partake in it will lose out on delivering patient outcomes that they need.
“It’s about using opportunities for advocacy at different parts of the system – whether it be ensuring that the centrality of primary care of general practice is part of the discussion, advocacy for appropriate funding models that need to underpin innovations, advocacy in ensuring public views are implemented or getting all players in the system together to collect best evidence to form a solution,” he said.
“It isn’t just about beds and hospitals anymore, it’s about partnerships and enabling patients to make the decisions necessary for the path they wish to take. The best way for this is to give them information and health literacy.”
Medicines Australia Independent Chair Dr Anna Lavelle added that ‘coopetition’ – the concept of cooperation with organisations that a business may be in competition with – is a part of appropriate healthcare.
“You can agree on things that both parties want and go in together to achieve those aims, and then you can choose to agree to disagree on other things. You don't have to be 100 per cent in alignment all the time,” she said.
“Being tolerant to that and respecting others’ views and needs is completely legitimate.”