This report presents the arguments as to why all political and other leaders must act now to transform Australia’s health system to ensure it is sustainable, effective, efficient, and leads to greater satisfaction for both consumers and service providers.
The report provides priorities for those leaders to maximise opportunities to achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals, their families and communities, and thereby unlock both social, capital and economic benefits for Australia.
The recommendations have been synthesised and derived from expert discussions and reflect established evidence that health systems with strong primary health care are more efficient, have lower rates of hospitalisation, fewer health inequalities and better health outcomes including reductions in rates of people dying.
While Australians generally enjoy some of the best health outcomes in the world, it is widely recognised the current health system is under increasing strain. Factors leading to this strain include the growing burden of chronic disease, an ageing population, an unsustainable funding system which includes adverse incentives to achieve volumes of services rather than better outcomes, workforce challenges, and digital innovation which is driving solutions but also comes at a cost.
Many OECD countries have recognised the importance of sustainable and effective integrated and comprehensive primary health care which is consumer (patient) centred and takes a whole-of-person approach to better meet the needs of individuals, families and communities.
Australia has made some significant moves to strengthen its primary health care system. Examples include the formation of Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and trials of Health Care Homes (HCHs), along with associated bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and the states and territories on coordinated care reforms to improve patient health outcomes and reduce avoidable demand for health services. However, the system and funding remain heavily tipped towards hospital and other institutional care as the hub of most importance. Equally it is hospital and institutional care that attracts most of the public and media scrutiny and often is a political focus.
Re-orientation towards strong, integrated primary health care as the driver of better health and wellbeing outcomes, needs solutions that help to overcome some of the inherent challenges in Australia, with the aim of ensuring:
- A consumer centred approach
- Continuity of care and integration of services around the needs of individuals, families and communities through clear care pathways
- Equitable access to safe and high-quality care
- A seamless passage through the system regardless of who funds, governs or provides services
- Coordination of service planning and delivery within the sector and with other health, social, and economic sectors which impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities
- Enhanced sustainability of a system which is under ongoing pressure to meet the population’s needs at the same time as containing costs and delivering high-value care.