How do we innovate healthcare for the 21st century?

A panel of health experts, academics and advocates have come together to discuss how we can innovate healthcare and create a truly consumer centred health system, at a joint breakfast forum held by The George Institute for Global Health and Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

Themes of the discussion included the role of technology, improving health literacy in society, the importance of multidisciplinary care, and focusing the health system on the needs of the patient rather than the provider. In her keynote address, journalist and patient advocate Julie McCrossin drew upon her experiences as a cancer survivor and used the opportunity to discuss the importance of creating a healthcare system that allows people to engage in their own healthcare. She named the campaigns Choosing Wisely and Targeting Cancer as examples of consumer centred health initiatives.

Executive Director of The George Institute Australia, Professor Vlado Perkovic discussed how private and commercial industries have built themselves around what the consumer wants, “but the same could not be said for health,” he noted. CEO of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia Leanne Wells said: “The days of looking to government only for changes to the healthcare system are over. Local initiatives will be the driver. It is time for consumers to be makers and shakers of the system, not just users.”

Professor Ian Hickie of the Brain and Mind Institute likened healthcare to a 1970s world before the internet and modern communications technology. Catherine Livingstone of the Business Council of Australia spoke about the critical role of data analytics in making informed decisions, and said: “We don’t have a health system, we have a sickness system. We need to change the philosophy to a health system, so that we focus on the first 50 years of life rather than picking up all the problems in the second 50 years of life, and enable consumers to understand their own health right from the beginning.”

The joint forum, which was chaired by ABC journalist Sophie Scott, brought together healthcare thinkers from multiple disciplines across primary care, government and research. The speakers were:

  • David Bowen, National Disability Insurance Agency
  • Professor Ian Hickie, Brain and Mind Institute
  • Dr Frank Jones, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Professor Stephen Leeder, Western Sydney Local Health District
  • Catherine Livingstone, Business Council of Australia
  • Associate Professor Fiona Turnbull, The George Institute for Global Health
  • Leanne Wells, Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  • Tony Lawson, Consumers Health Forum of Australia
  • Professor Vlado Perkovic, The George Institute for Global Health