Summary 10 button

The Innovating Health Series returned to Melbourne for the final event of 2017. A design thinking format was introduced and used to address the problem statement posed by Chris Bain, Professor of Practice, Digital Health, Monash University. The design thinking session worked through the problem of elective surgery and patient choice with a group of over 20 health leaders and design facilitators.

There was active discussion with six key outputs from the event. Problem Statement:

“How can we assist patients to make informed choices when referred to hospital for elective surgery?”

We welcomed Prof Chris Bain who posed the problem of choice in elective surgery. The current system is very much provider centric, reliant on the management and publication of hospital waiting lists, and a referral process from General Practitioners and Specialists which relies on individual, anecdotal perceptions and relationships. Whilst patients with private healthcare have more ability to influence and choose hospitals and surgeons for elective surgery procedures, those in the public health system are left with little or no choice and at the whim of the system. Essentially you get booked to the hospital and surgeon that is part of the referral.

There are regular reports and reviews published by Hospitals, Government Departments and Agencies including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which compare hospital performance and routine services. The MyHospital portal is one place which publishes these reports to provide greater transparency to hospital and health system performance and access to services. A recent report by Macquarie University “Assessing choice for public hospital patients” highlighted:

  • Need for greater patient choice for public hospital patients when receiving elective care
  • 10% of Australians waited more than 260 days for elective surgery in public hospitals
  • 700,000+ Australians underwent elective surgery 2015-16

There is a pressing need to transform the elective surgery process for public hospital patients, as large populations are affected, there are inherent inefficiencies within the system and there are probably significant cost and quality efficiencies to be made. The report presents a policy recommendation that Governments must empower patients to make an informed choice in order to drive quality improvements from greater public hospital choice. Resulting implications would include:

  • Improve hospital quality information to make it more accessible to patients
  • Provide health care professional assistance to patients when making choices
  • Reduce cost to exercising patient choice
  • Help hospitals respond to patient preferences for quality

The Innovating Health design thinking event asked participants to bring their health professional focus as well as their consumer focus to the problem. A facilitated design thinking process was conducted to enable the health executive participants to access a different way of thinking about this ‘wicked problem’ using participant co-designed solutions.

The take-away points from this health leader discussion are highlighted in the summary report here.