Professor Vlado Perkovic's Response to Health Minister Pre-Budget Speech

Health Minister Peter Dutton delivered his last speech before the May Budget, highlighting the need for systematic changes to Australia’s healthcare system in order to make it sustainable.

In response to his speech, The George Institute for Global Health Executive Director Vlado Perkovic said radical, transformative change, rather than incremental change, was required.

Professor Perkovic argued for a new system founded on value-based care, outlining the need for financial levers to encourage efficiency and quality and discourage inefficiency, as well as the development of novel funding models that promoted quality rather than quantity.

Healthcare should be brought into the 21st century, Professor Perkovic said. “Can we move more care from the hospital to the home or other settings, and increase the role of other expert health professionals aside from doctors and GP’s?”

Practices shown by robust research to be wasteful should be abandoned, he said. Recent research from The George Institute had shown these practices included needless scans for lower back pain and use of expensive fluids in ICU settings. Other research had flagged the need to increase the proportion of people having dialysis and other expensive therapies at home.

“Many of these changes can be implemented quickly, and would produce rapid benefits.”

At the same time, he emphasised the fundamental importance of providing equitable and accessible care to all people, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, rural and regional Australians, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Medical research, he said, should play a central role in health system reforms.

“Now, more than ever, quality medical research is needed to drive healthcare reform.”

He said many health and research groups were already working in this area, many of whom were present at The George Institute to hear Minister Dutton’s speech – for example, The University of Sydney, the Westmead Millennium Institute, the Sax Institute and The Menzies Institute.

Also present for the speech were industry players with an interest in health reform, such as health insurers such Bupa, HCF, Medibank, health technology companies such as Telstra and GE, and pharma companies Astra Zeneca and Merck.

Reform, said Professor Perkovic, was not the sole responsibility of government. Public private partnerships must be a key part of the solution.

Photo credit: Aron Downie