Better, more timely information for health consumers

Thursday, 31 October 2013

In conjunction with the Consumers' Health Forum's AGM on 31 October, Prof Stephen Duckett gave the Christopher Newell Oration. To an audience that included Christopher's mum and dad from Tasmania, Stephen Duckett spoke stirringly about some of the ways in which health consumers could be better served by the Australian health system.

Basing his comments on three recent personal stories, Prof Duckett argued the case for existing data systems to be used to provide more and better information to consumers on the costs they will bear as they embark on their particular 'patient journey' – not halfway through or at the end. The notion of a patient making decisions on the basis of 'informed consent' about their treatment should be linked to detailed historical data being available about particular clinics and clinicians relating to treatment outcomes and out-of-pocket costs for the procedure(s) needed.

Prof Duckett repeated the recommendation of the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission, of which he was a member, that there should be a single combined financial safety net, not separate ones for pharmaceutical and medical expenses.

He described as "a major health policy issue" the limited extent to which patient data - aggregated into service outcome patterns - is used to define quality treatment protocols. Such protocols could be used to extend the safe scope of practice for nurses, for example, to make the best use of GPs' time.

Prof Duckett affirmed the importance and value of what Christopher Newell knew and did so well - patient advocacy - and reflected on the role of the Consumers' Health Forum in supporting the cause.

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