Leading health minds plan for future

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The panel in action at the Dean’s Future Health Forum

Sydney University’s historic MacLaurin Hall was packed to its vaulted rafters for the inaugural Dean’s Future Health Forum, which brought together experts to discuss bridging the gaps in healthcare.

Healthcare professionals and academics linked to health studies and research heard the spread of funding, the consumer voice and a pivot away from treating sick people to helping people stay healthy would transform health.

Improved integrated care – a major focus for Western Sydney Local Health District – and the emergence and evolution of technology were factors that would drive change, according to the panel, which led the discussion at the Faculty of Health Sciences’ fifth Dean’s breakfast event.

WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network and a major partner of the WSLHD in working on better integrated care, was represented on the panel by its chief executive Walter Kmet.

Mr Kmet identified the lack of a “shared narrative” about what the health system should look like as an obstacle to reform.

“How do we begin to shift funding from areas of the system that are intervention to areas of the system that focus on prevention?” Mr Kmet said.

“What is the balance of funding for acute care as opposed to primary and preventative care?”

Professor Kathryn Refshuage, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and a panellist, threw an early “thought grenade” into the mix in her opening remarks by proposing that the health system “was designed for the clinicians, rather than the patients”.

This meshed with anecdotal evidence from Commonwealth Department of Health panellist Mark Cormack that the existing health system was not set up to make sense of the consumer’s access to alternative sources of online information.

“(A significant percentage) of people go online for information about their health condition; our system is not tailored to make sense of this,” he said.

The need to better absorb information and improve transparency was picked up by another panellist – Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer of NSW.

“I can get more informations about my mechanic than the health professional that I am about to see,” Mr Currow, who is also chief executive officer of the Cancer Institute of NSW, said.

“There is no sense for healthcare professionals of where they rate among their colleagues.”

Prof Currow also identified “a tsunami of evidence” arriving by virtue of the roughly 200 randomised control trials reporting each day by 2019 and the need to prepare to integrate this information and these data.

In concluding the panel discussion, Prof Refshuage pointed to the power of students.

“What sort of jobs are we creating to attract the best and brightest and most creative grads and retain best employees?” Prof Refshuage said.

“Students can help with that so I think it is feeding some of that into our thinking we can establish programs using our students.”

The panel also included Northern Sydney Local Health District interim chief executive Deborah Willcox.

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