18/04/2018 - 15:46

Waste, cost cuts key for better health outcomes

18/04/2018 - 15:46

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The costliest and most wasteful parts of the healthcare system are often the most frustrating for customers, according to Sustainable Healthcare Review chair Robyn Kruk, so they should be the top targets for future reform.

Waste, cost cuts key for better health outcomes
One of the most significant recent investments in health was the new Fiona Stanley Hospital. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The costliest and most wasteful parts of the healthcare system are often the most frustrating for customers, according to Sustainable Healthcare Review chair Robyn Kruk, so they should be the top targets for future reform.

Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch, Ms Kruk said that the existing model of healthcare funding nationally encouraged hospitals to do more work.

That came with higher expenses, however, she said.

The model has driven efficiency, Ms Kruk said, but there was a need to move from a focus on volume to a focus on value.

“This is not just about money,” Ms Kruk told the luncheon forum.

“The things that probably annoy you most … (are) incredibly costly and wasteful.

“The pressures in the systems, frustrations, are often where there’s waste.”

Ms Kruk cited the examples of someone needing to take half a day off work to get multiple tests at a variety of locations, or a patient being offered the highest level of treatment when it was perhaps not necessary.

Health spending in Western Australia had doubled in the past decade, and was now nearly 30 per cent of the budget.

It could rise to be as much as 38 per cent if action was not taken, Ms Kruk said.

The Sustainable Health Review, which commenced in June 2017, issued its interim report in February, with a finalised version due at the end of this year.

Ms Kruk today highlighted a few areas of concern.

Workforce costs in healthcare were well above national benchmarks, she said, while customers and carers were not central enough in how the system operated.

More needed to be done to support at home care, Ms Kruk said, which was cheaper and delivered better outcomes for patients.

Stopping obesity, telehealth and better mental health services should be key priorities for reform, she said.

Public sector reform

John Langoulant, who recently headed a special inquiry into projects by the former state government, said that broader reform of the public sector would need significant backing from the business community and from the government’s workforce.

He said there was an urgent need to reduce the government’s operational expenditure while maintaining a strong skill base in the public sector.

Project management skills, for example, were lacking, while procurement lacked discipline.

Hitting on themes from his recently released inquiry report, Mr Langoulant said rebuilding the authority of centralised agencies would be vital, while improving governance would need to start at the cabinet level.

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