Below are two posts about some new developments in consumer health advocacy.
Vern Hughes describes the new National Campaign for Consumer-Centred Health Care and why a minority government should please health reformers, while Sally Crossing tells us about a new advocacy body in NSW.
Consumers must drive health reform
Vern Hughes, convenor of the National Campaign for Consumer-Centred Health Care, writes:
A minority government is good news for health reform. Left to their own devices, neither side of politics has the will to drive transformational change in the health system in the interests of consumers.
But in a minority government, all players have to look beyond their ideological instincts to find workable solutions.
The federal election campaign reminded us very clearly that the health policy and health reform debate in Australia is thoroughly dominated by provider and practitioner peak bodies in both private and public sectors.
Politicians take their policy cues from these peak bodies. Consumer voices are poorly-developed, under-resourced, and almost entirely ignored in public debate.
There is no national health consumer body in Australia that has a strategic commitment to consumer-centred health care.
Illness-specific and institution-specific consumer representation and advisory bodies have emerged in the last thirty years but are usually restricted in their role to the facilitation of consumer voice within provider and practitioner-centred systems, often in response to government requirements that institutions demonstrate accountability to their various ‘stakeholders’ – with consumers usually classified as but one ‘stakeholder group’ amongst many.
The National Campaign for Consumer-Centred Health Care is a response to this imbalance in the Australian health reform debate.
The idea of the Campaign came out of the Consumer-Centred Health Care: Policy Innovation and Empowerment conference held in Melbourne on 22-23 March 2010.
The assumption underlying our Campaign is that the health industry is not going to reform itself. It is riddled with conflicting interests between sectors, disciplines and specialties. Consumers are the only participants in the health system who do not have vested interests. Health reform will therefore either be driven by consumers, or it will be driven by no one.
Our aim is to influence governments to implement our 5-point agenda below. To this end, we will work to gather political support for the agenda from politicians, political parties, policy makers, and the community over the next three years.
The federal election in 2013 will have greater significance for health reform than the 2010 election, and our Campaign will aim to influence the debate by the time this next election comes around in three years time.
The aims of the Campaign are:
- To develop a movement of citizens and consumers for change in the Australian health system towards consumer-centred health care.
- To participate in the health reform debate in Australia and influence its direction; and
- To influence the thinking of politicians, policy makers, journalists, practitioners and consumers about health care and health reform.
Our four principles are:
• My Life. My History
Information about a person’s health history and care strategies belongs to that person, and authority in management of and access to this information resides with each person.
• My Life. My Care
A person requiring health care interventions should be resourced with the means to acquire independent personalised information and support in making decisions about care options and coordination.
Self-Care and Self-Management
A person with chronic or complex health conditions has a right to expect support from providers and practitioners in developing their capacity for self-care and self-management in their journey towards better health.
My Life. My Money
A person requiring health care interventions has a right to know the price, quality and safety credentials of these interventions.
You can see the members of our steering group here.
The Campaign has an initial focus on five key points:
- A Person-Controlled Electronic Health Record
- A Care Coordination and Brokerage Payment of $2000 for every consumer with a diagnosed chronic and mental illness
- A Person-Controlled Health Management Tool
- A Health Care Price and Safety Information Service
- 110 Divisions of Consumers as Incubators of Innovation
These 5 points are not the last word in health reform. They are simply starting points for the re-direction of reform efforts away from a narrow pre-occupation with hospitals to a focus on the total consumer experience of health and health care.
As starting points in this process, our Campaign has a focus on the funding and structuring of consumer decision-making, empowerment, self-care and self-management.
A new voice for people using NSW health services
Sally Crossing writes:
Health consumer organisations have recently agreed to establish Health Consumers NSW – a state level, independent voice for people using health services, so they can fully participate in shaping health in this state.
NSW has been the only major state without this kind of consumer “voice”
Health Consumers NSW (HC NSW) will join other Australian states’ peak consumer organisations to influence health policy and service provision, not to mention the Health Reform process.
HC NSW will play a vital role in shaping a responsive health system – public and private – in our state. One of our first jobs is to respond to NSW Health’s Discussion Paper Health Reform in NSW, seeking a mechanism for consumer involvement.
NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt funded the first Forum of twenty interested organisations, indicating her in principle support of this real opportunity for NSW health consumers to be heard. The new organisation has been warmly welcomed by health sector stakeholders and supporters.