Statement to the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific

Monday, October 9, 2017

Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association’s (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven made the following statement to the 68th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific on behalf of the International Hospital Federation (IHF).

AHHA and IHF will host the 42nd World Hospital Congress in Brisbane from 10 to 12 October next year in partnership with Queensland Health’s Clinical Excellence Division. The Congress is a unique forum that brings together key drivers of national and international policy, management, financial trends and solutions in healthcare management and service delivery.

‘Adequate hospital funding, sensible investment in prevention and primary care, and a system-wide shift to universality, outcomes and value-based care are all needed to respond to the increasing challenges of healthcare systems under financial pressure and populations with ever-increasing and more complex healthcare needs’, said Ms Verhoeven.

‘Rising rates of chronic disease and associated comorbidities result in more complex and more costly interactions between hospitals and primary care providers. Reducing the burden of disease, and reducing financial pressure on healthcare systems, will depend on improved service design, delivery and coordination.

‘Effective, integrated primary care and community-based management of an individual’s healthcare needs requires an upfront cost, but avoids more costly future hospital admissions. Regionally coordinated care is also likely to be more responsive and an important dimension of this reform. For that reason, investing in chronic disease prevention through coordinating care across the patient journey is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed within the health, disability and aged care sectors; with cost-effective health outcomes contributing to system sustainability.

'Well-designed reform around integrated care, underpinned by strong government stewardship that encourages improved service quality, accessibility and consumer choice can be provided at a prospectively lower cost to the overall health system. For this to happen, financial and operational incentives need to be aligned. One way to achieve this is to place overall responsibility for both primary, community and hospital care with one organisation. This could be within a tier of government or a regionally based organisation accountable to governments. Governance arrangements and system design should incentivise health outcomes achieved rather than outputs produced.

‘The healthcare sector is multifaceted in its provision of services, which are delivered by a variety of providers with various funding sources, spread across different levels of government and third party agents. There is a high degree of information asymmetry between consumers and providers, placing significant emphasis on the principal–agent relationship between the patient and care provider. Successful policy around outcomes-focused integrated care must therefore also consider the consolidation of professional roles and relationships within care teams.

‘The complexity and interwoven nature of the healthcare sector necessitates careful policy design around financial reforms, to ensure that the broad system impacts, and the potential for unintended consequences are considered. It is important that the strengths of the existing system are built upon and the principles of equity, efficiency, sustainability and universality are preserved. A stable, predictable and equitable system with the institutional capacity to evolve and respond to consumer needs will be essential to improving quality of life, and provide sustainable economic benefits through reducing the impact of chronic disease on the system’, said Ms Verhoeven.

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The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community.

Media enquiries: Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, 0403 282 501