Australia’s Health 2040: New report calls for reforms to ensure health system sustainability


A report released by the Australia’s Health 2040 taskforce delivers a case for reforms to ensure health system sustainability and improved quality of life for all Australians.

Outlining 19 reform options, the Australia's Health 2040 report highlights the importance of access to the right care at the right time, in the right setting.

These recommendations were developed over 12 months of consultation by the taskforce, facilitated by independent policy institute Global Access Partners (GAP) and made up of health professionals, academics, consumer representatives and industry groups.

The recommendations are:

  1. Increase the emphasis on prevention and chronic disease management services.
  2. Fund equitable access to a patient-centred delivery model in primary care.
  3. Implement all independent MBS Review recommendations as soon as possible, to remove low-value care and improve patient outcomes.
  4. Leverage the existing clinical committee infrastructure from the MBS Review to create an ongoing review process to identify low-value care opportunities.
  5. Invest in the utilisation of technology in primary care, e.g., telehealth, consumer email and out-of-hours communication, and online self-help resources.
  6. Provide effective cover for dentistry services, particularly for children, the elderly and people in lower socio-economic groups, including Indigenous Australians.
  7. Support the utilisation of mental health services, including digital services, to improve access to services and the delivery of treatment services that are consistent with best-practice care.
  8. Through a private-public partnership structure, pool funds (e.g., Primary Health Networks, Medicare, other state and federal funding, PHI) to develop more innovative models of care, including by leveraging outcome-based payments for either (a) specific patient cohorts, or (b) specific episodes of care, to strengthen the incentive for case management and hospital avoidance activities.
  9. Ensure the price paid for services is appropriately benchmarked to the value they demonstrate.
  10. Establish a National Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement as a public-private partnership.
  11. Establish a standardised national approach to measuring patient-centred health outcomes for specific healthcare episodes and conditions.
  12. Require publication of average charges for consultations and common procedures, and mandate pre-service disclosure of out-of-pocket expenses and an auditable informed patient consent to these costs in non-emergency situations.
  13. Require all health service providers to publicise information on complication and re-admission rates, and longitudinal health outcome data, with appropriate confidentiality protections.
  14. Develop a primary health information strategy to standardise data collection nationally, with the aim of improving patient experience and preventative health efforts.
  15. Invest in implementing national digital health initiatives to effectively maximise their value.
  16. Require healthcare professionals to maintain technology and data standards as a condition of accessing Medicare funding.
  17. Increase contestability for public health services e.g., allowing private organisations to manage integrated health budgets or managing dental care programs.
  18. Establish joint working models between public and private sector bodies to ensure compliance and reduce fraud.
  19. Develop a long-term national health workforce reform strategy that incorporates the impact of automation and the role of precision medicine changing workforce requirements.

Taskforce chair, Martin Bowles AO PSM, emphasised the need for long-term thinking and reforms that build on the existing system.

We have taken a pragmatic approach to this task, as we recognised there are some fundamentals in the Australian healthcare system that make it one of the best health systems in the world. These fundamentals are Medicare and the mix of public and private sectors delivered across Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and private sector providers.
Martin Bowles AO PSM

Patient-centred models of care and increased transparency are among the suggestions put forward in the report.

Bupa Managing Director, Dr. Dwayne Crombie, welcomed this approach.

"Affordability is a major concern for the health system and we need to prioritise delivering the right care, at the right time, in the right setting," he said.

"Cost pressures driven by the ageing population aren’t going away, so it’s critical that the health sector works together to ensure long-term sustainability."

Improving affordability for customers remains a key focus for Bupa.

Several pilots are underway, aiming to provide the same or better health outcomes at lower cost, while also giving customers more choice. Rehabilitation, chemotherapy and palliative care in the home are among the services currently being rolled out to Bupa customers across the country.

The Bupa Health Foundation co-funded the Australia’s Health 2040 taskforce, alongside GAP, EY, Johnson & Johnson Australia and Westpac. Read the full report here


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