Health delivery in a post-COVID world

If 2020 taught us anything, it is that family, friends and working together is extremely important not only for our mental well-being but our physical health also.

With many isolated at home during the past year, we re-evaluated our values and goals and took time to check in on our family members over the phone or joined friends at Zoom-based exercise sessions to keep the “COVID kilos” at bay.

Our health workforce banded together for the greater good to make sure those who needed urgent elective surgery throughout the pandemic could receive care in the private system while ensuring our public hospitals were adequately resourced to combat the pandemic.

While it has, and continues to be a challenging time for many, the pandemic has given us a platform to reimagine how health care is delivered in a post COVID-19 world and an opportunity to find solutions to current health system challenges.

We are fortunate that Australia has one of the most envied health systems in the world, balancing on a partnership between the private and public health system working together.

But many continue to have trouble accessing healthcare for a range of reasons and because of this, we must keep looking for different ways to provide care outside the traditional hospital or GP room setting.

For this reason, we must also embrace digital technology that enables individuals to take control of their health.
Telehealth or virtual healthcare was rapidly adopted during COVID-19 and should continue to be an increasingly important mode of care, especially for those living in rural and remote regions who cannot always access a GP or psychologist.

Telehealth not only can help individuals access care but can also ensure that those who require more exploratory or specialised care are referred on to a treatment provider in the earlier stages of their illness.

And to complement this, smartphone apps like Snug enable us to monitor our own health vitals so that we can provide a true representation of our health to our treatment providers.

Secondly, we must continue to look at alternative places of care to ensure that appropriate care can take place outside of the hospital setting, relieving pressure on hospital beds and reducing the cost of care delivery.

This includes ensuring that we offer care in the home that enables someone with a chronic illness to be in familiar surroundings, often freeing up a hospital bed for someone in dire need. St.LukesHealth has been actively advocating for a change in legislation that empowers members to receive this type of care.

Since COVID-19, St.LukesHealth has experienced a rapid increase in those accessing its Tasmanian home-based chronic disease management program. The program aims to empower members to better understand their health condition, medications and care plans, with our nurses working alongside members carers, specialists and GPs if required, all with the aim of enabling our members to live a better life.

Thirdly, we must make healthcare affordable.

A 2019 study looking at the cost-related use of medicines for asthma found that half of adults and one third of children either decreased or skipped doses of their $40 asthma medication to make it last longer.

According to Price Waterhouse and Cooper, Australians pay for about 17 per cent of total health expenditure directly through out-of-pocket costs, with Australia having the third highest reliance on individual healthcare contributions behind Belgium and Switzerland.

To make healthcare more affordable for Australians, it is imperative that the public and private sectors, as well as the Australian and state governments, work together to ensure that our communities receive the appropriate and affordable care.

We demonstrated this throughout the height of the pandemic and continue to show this with approximately two thirds of all elective surgery being performed in private hospitals.

St.LukesHealth is committed to helping its members more easily navigate the health system so that they can become the healthiest version of themselves and we will continue to advocate on your behalf so that health is affordable and accessible for everyone.

 - Paul Lupo

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