Consumer insights are the hidden assets in shaping a better health system

| August 9, 2019

It was a pleasure to participate in the Australia’s Health 2040 Taskforce convened by Global Access Partners, and to contribute to its final report, Ensuring the Sustainability of the Australian Health System.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) supports Health 2040’s proposals to shift the focus in the Australian health system to a more consumer focus.

Over thirty years of consumer advocacy in health at the national level is reason to ponder the direction of health care and the role consumers and communities will play in shaping our health care future. It is common belief that we need more preventative and integrated primary health care.

The hospital of the future will look very different from the hospital of today. Changes to how health care is delivered are going to accelerate at an unprecedented pace driven by digitalisation, consumer expectation and the advent of genomics and precision, personalised medicine.

Consumers will assume a ‘new power’. They will command convenience and access to high value, modern, personalised services that meet their needs. They will expect to have choice and control over the services they pay for. They will be activated more than ever with access to burgeoning information and innovations that will assist them to stay well, self-manage and access quality care tailored to them.

Policy makers, health administrators and clinicians – where decision making power currently rests – will need to learn new ways to harness the transformative role consumers can play as agents of change and to work with this ‘new power’.

Consumer advocacy has already contributed in many ways to shaping our system, but there is still a way to go for this role to be truly valued and to achieve a truly consumer-centred health care system in Australia. There is more to do to fully realise the many and varied roles that consumers can play in health care. The sooner we do that, the better health system and better experiences consumers will have.

In November 2018, CHF published a White Paper – Shifting Gears–Consumers Transforming Health which sets out the Consumers Health Forum of Australia’s philosophy and aspirations for the future role of consumers shaping health.

There is a need for fundamental shifts in the way we conceive, finance and organise health care. The value of consumer insights and experiences are the hidden assets in shaping a better system. There can be no more important an investment than to equip the beneficiaries of our health system with the skills to shape it.

The recommendations of the Ensuring the Sustainability of the Australian Health System report will form part of our on-going discussions and deliberations in our many fora including planned roundtables on how to improve the health system.

Subscribers to the Australian Financial Review and the Australian can read more about the report in this interview with Martin Bowles and this overview of the issues presented.