Time to change the game in health to get the results we want

Friday, October 25, 2019

‘It really is time to change the game in health to reward outcomes for patients using best value-for-money healthcare’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Acting Chief Executive Dr Linc Thurecht.

‘The days of incentivising number of appointments attended instead of the outcomes achieved should be confined to the medical waste bin because rising health costs are unsustainable.

‘Unnecessary or ineffective care needs to be cut out altogether. And preventive healthcare, which provides value for money by reducing the need to seek healthcare in the first place, needs to be prioritised.’

Dr Thurecht was commenting on today’s release by the AHHA’s Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research of an Issues Brief, Reforming for value: opportunities for outcome-focused national health policy, by Dr Kate Raymond from Dental Health Services Victoria.

‘It’s about providing incentives for what we want to achieve’, Dr Thurecht said.

‘In many facets of life, whether it’s sport, taxation, or home loan interest rates, sometimes the rules are changed to encourage changes in the activity itself. The same has to happen in health.

‘Our health system could be so much better. Costs are running away from us. Health disparities have persisted or widened under a system measured and rewarded by amount of healthcare activity no matter what outcomes are achieved.

‘Providers currently have strong incentives to maximise the number of appointments with patients, while the aim really should be to improve a person’s health and reduce how often they need to see a doctor or other healthcare professionals.’

‘There are signs that governments would like to go down the track of rewarding outcomes and value’, Dr Thurecht said.

‘For example, the Commonwealth Government’s Long-Term National Health Agreement commits to developing a national preventive health strategy and funding flexible care where teams of health professionals provide coordinated best-value care aimed at achieving outcomes valued by patients.

‘But such well-intentioned efforts will have reduced impact unless there are rigorous policies in place to measure and fund improvements in outcomes. Systems need to be set up to do this on a nationally consistent and comprehensive scale.

‘Until then, health agreements between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments will continue to encourage volume over value and too much uncoordinated and ineffective care, amid rising healthcare costs.’

Reforming for value: opportunities for outcome-focused national health policy is available here.

More information on AHHA is available at ahha.asn.au.

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

Media enquiries:  Dr Linc Thurecht, A/Chief Executive, AHHA

0401 393 729