Almost 250 people congregated on the Gold Coast this week for the APHA 35th National Congress (20-22 March). Congress delegates travelled from all corners of the country to learn from, and network with their peers in the health sector, while a vast array of exhibitors ensured all areas of the industry were represented at the trade exhibition. The annual event delivered a thought-provoking and informative look at safety and quality in healthcare.
APHA president Christine Gee opened the Congress by providing an overview of the work undertaken by APHA during 2015. Ms Gee highlighted the 14 major government reviews which APHA has been involved in and she outlined the key issues – such as private health insurance – that, irrespective of the election outcome, the association will continue to push with the government this year.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley also spoke about the government’s reviews, explaining that although they are independent pieces of work, they are aimed at reforming interdependent parts of the health system. Ms Ley outlined the challenge for the government as trying to manage the system in the face of an ageing population, a declining workforce, increasing technology and increasing consumer expectations with the constraints of limited fiscal resources. Ms Ley praised the private sector for providing choice for consumers and acknowledged that private hospitals do a lot of heavy lifting in the system.
Professor Michael Buist from the University of Tasmania used his keynote address, “Please listen to me, I am bleeding”, to make the audience feel “uncomfortable”. He largely succeeded, giving a powerful presentation based on his experience as a patient. Professor Buist emphasised the need for doctors to go over and above and listen to their patients, not just provide care.
Professor Anne Duggan, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s senior medical adviser, took delegates through the Commission’s Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. The level of variation in some areas of healthcare is very dramatic and this is an important piece of work that will influence policy and funding in the future. At the moment, however, it raises more questions than it answers, including questions like what is the right amount of care and what is an acceptable level of variation?
Dr Steve Hambleton, Allan Boston and Professor John Horvath formed the first panel of the Congress to discuss the pertinent question: “Is the consumer at the centre of your business model?” Although the trio outlined the different approaches they have employed at their respective organisations, each method centred strongly on listening, informing and assisting the patient.
Antarctic expedition leader Rachael Robertson brought day one to a close. Ms Robertson, who is the most in-demand female speaker in Australia, drew on her experience of leading expeditions to Antarctica to provide lessons on teamwork and leadership while also explaining why respect trumps harmony.
Day two began with a panel discussion on “How to manage the underperforming clinician”. Pindara Private Hospital chief executive Trish Hogan, Dr John Quinn from the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and The Wesley Hospital’s director of clinical services, Luis Prado, discussed how they approach cases of clinicians underperforming. The trio was then joined by Pulse Health chief operating officer Matthew Mackay for a hypothetical session. The group shed light on how vexed and complex this issue can be for hospital management.
Professor Michael Dooley from Alfred Health and Russell Hill, a managing partner at Epic Pharmacy, discussed the role of pharmacists in driving hospital safety and quality measures. The pair stressed the importance of keeping doctors away from medication charts, while explaining the challenges with implementing medication safety initiatives in the private sector.
The final session on day two involved Adjunct Professor Debora Picone (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care CEO), Catherine Katz, Director (Safety and Quality Improvement Systems and Inter-Government Relations), Dr Rachel David (Private Healthcare Australia CEO) and Dr Chris Zappala (Australian Medical Association Queensland president). The discussion focused on “Making quality count”. Adjunct Professor Picone used the opportunity to highlight how innovative and agile the private hospital sector is and how it is leading the way with the implementation of safety and quality standards.
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