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As service design thinking focuses on the consumer and data blends across multiple service providers, data capture and information exchange are critical to success in addressing rising costs and future sustainability in health and welfare. There are significant opportunities for the health and welfare systems to innovate as emerging technologies, consumer expectations and business models demand we think differently about joined-up services, linked data and consumer participation.

This roundtable explored the question: How can we innovate by blending data across health and human services?

We welcomed Jason Potts, Professor of Economics at RMIT as our discussion guide bringing challenging perspectives on innovation and the economics of new technology as it applies to current and future health and welfare services.

The session acknowledged efforts to date in health and human services service reform including approaches to engage consumers, connect services, leverage capability, and link data. However, it also posed questions on the institutional and cultural barriers that still restrict innovation and change. Traditional business models still perpetuate centralised services and data, with a general lack of incentive for integrated solutions in a sector full of complexity and multiple stakeholders.

From a purely economic point of view, it can be argued that health and welfare sectors can be innovative and transform if we start thinking differently about data, data ownership, and permission to use information differently. For example, technologies are now being used in the financial services industry that supports distributed data sharing such as Blockchain. The rapid societal changes triggered by digital access to mobile services through smart phones and the emerging data governance models facilitated by new technologies combine to offer alternative ways of handling and sharing information in a secure, open, linked and distributed way that would not previously have been possible.

While these technologies allow for different ways of operating and thinking about system innovation and joined-up services; the question posed by roundtable attendees was, “How do we seize the opportunities that new business models and technologies bring so that we are able to transform consumer services?

The discussion was active, exploratory and informative with a number of views and positions expressed which revolved around the topic posed. Whilst the discussion centred mainly around healthcare services in terms of examples, key points discussed were relevant to the broader scope of health and welfare. It was the start of a conversation which will definitely continue.

A number of take-away points from the discussion were captured and can be found here to view the report.