Forty per cent of Australians had at least one chronic health problem (hypertension, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety or asthma), according to a study conducted by the University of Sydney scholars (source, published in 2017).
Also, Australians spend a lot of money on health whether through insurance premiums, taxes and/or direct payments. It’s estimated that about 10 per cent of Australia’s GDP is being spent on health care each year (source). The expenditure is only expected to grow for the coming years because of the chronic health problems (mentioned above), ageing population and the patients’ need for better care.
What can we do with our health care system?
The question then is: Do we effectively and efficiently achieve the health care outcomes given the financial resources allocated? In other words, are patients properly being taken cared of given the expenses they and the government incur?
The implementation of Medicare is just one of the initial steps. Medicare allows us to access a range of medical services for free or at a lower cost (this includes doctors, specialists, lower cost prescriptions and free care as a public patient in a public hospital). However, as with most other sectors there are inefficiencies in the system (which the public may or may not directly shoulder one way or another). Some of the health interventions might be irrelevant or excessive (unnecessary additional costs and irrelevant procedures that might even be harmful to the patients).
There are also concerns about the “subjective” aspects of health care. This may include meeting patient expectations or better communicating the procedures and outcomes. Also, patients want a higher level of involvement in decisions and transitions. They also deserve fast access to health advice and information.
And yes, health care is not just about the outcome. It’s also about the entire journey whether the patient is staying at the hospital or just undergoing diagnosis and examinations. The health issue is a huge inconvenience in itself, there’s no reason to add more inconvenience. The focus should be on receiving proper care.
To end this discussion, improving our health care system requires an integrated and end-to-end approach. In fact, it even starts way before the patient is admitted to the hospital. More and more attention and financial resources are going into preventive care (which could be a lot cheaper than hospital care). And through the entire process (especially when the patient has very limited mobility), the patient should feel comfortable at most times so that he/she can focus on getting better to make the transition somehow easier.
There’s always room for improvement and it’s a never-ending journey. But for significant improvement to happen, this requires concerted efforts from the health care industry and other sectors.