Health data boost right step on the road to reform

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

‘The substantial boost in funding for better health data in this year’s Federal Budget is a great building block for much-needed reform of the system—and the government is to be congratulated for it’, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said today.

The Australian Government announced a boost of $30 million over 4 years to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to improve accessibility to health information and statistics, including better data sharing capability and information and communications technology upgrades.

‘As outlined in our Healthy people, healthy systems blueprint for healthcare, which we released last December, we need to reorientate our healthcare system to focus on patient outcomes and value rather than throughput and vested interests. To make things better we have to have an accurate picture of what is going on now—and we can get this through better healthcare data.

‘While the news on data is good, it’s disappointing that there have been no major announcements boosting the capacity of public hospitals to cater for what is now overwhelming demand, nor to better coordinate the two-way divide between primary care and hospital care.

‘Another critical area specified in our blueprint is moving care away from high cost hospitals where possible to patient-centred primary and community care, including disability care, aged care and mental health care services.

‘The $1.6 billion in increased funding for 14,000 additional high level home care packages by 2021–22 is therefore welcome news—however over 100,000 people are waiting, so much more needs to be done.

‘We also welcome the increased $82.5 million investment in mental health services in residential aged care facilities, and the broader mental health investments announced in this Budget.

‘Other community services have largely been overlooked, and there is no commitment in the Budget to meaningful reform of the health and community services workforce to best deliver integrated care. Investment in workforce development, particularly in rural Australia, is welcome, but this is only one part of the jigsaw. Much more needs to be done to develop a workforce that will support the needs of an ageing population.

‘In terms of modernisation of the system we also welcome the continuation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review process, where old treatments and procedures are being phased out in favour of those that are more effective and of better value. It is, however, a significant oversight that palliative care in general practice has not been prioritised for funding reforms.

‘The lack of any concrete action on preventive health is concerning—it has been allowed to slip down health budget priorities, despite its proven benefits in preventing big health bills later. This particularly applies to dental health, which once again has been overlooked.

‘In terms of Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, we note some modest investments, including the commitment of $5 million per year for the next 3 years to address trachoma in Aboriginal communities’, Ms Verhoeven said.

‘It is disappointing that the government didn’t take the opportunity to address one of our pre-Budget recommendations to make the administrative changes to ensure patients discharged from hospital have access to Closing the Gap prescriptions. This would have been a practical and relatively inexpensive measure to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:  Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA 0403 282 501