Simple innovations for chronic health issues could help millions

Across Australia, innovations in healthcare are improving the lives of people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and arthritis.

However, while nearly ten million Australians, or around 40% of us, now live with chronic health conditions these successful innovative programs only benefit a small fraction.

“There are many simple and inexpensive innovations that help people avoid hospital and enjoy a better quality of life,” Productivity Commissioner, Stephen King said.

“But these innovations are localised — limited to one state or even one town. People only get access if they live in the right place,” he said.

The report Innovations in care for chronic health conditions by the Productivity Commission highlights examples of services that successfully manage chronic health conditions.

They include initiatives that send friendly SMS reminders to people to monitor their symptoms and make healthy choices, and programs that rearrange health service workflows so they can offer better support.

“While the health system works well for most people, most of the time, its weaknesses are exposed when it comes to chronic health conditions,” Productivity Commissioner Richard Spencer said.

“For example health services in one part of the country may not know what is happening in other areas, so great ideas are only partly adopted,” he said.

Half of all hospital admissions are related to chronic health conditions. One of the programs the report looked at lowered admissions by 25%, by keeping in touch with patients and helping them address problems before they needed hospitalisation.

With relatively small investments, such innovations could be expanded, benefitting more people. Governments have an appetite for change and are making progress but diffusion of new ideas could be much more effective.

“Health system reform is often slow and piecemeal. Our report provides examples of services that found ways to improve care within the system we have now — they offer valuable and practical lessons for other parts of the health system,” Stephen King said.

“If all of the good ideas identified by the report, and some of them were breathtakingly simple, were adopted across Australia, they could benefit millions of Australians,” he said.

The Productivity Commission’s report on Innovations in care for chronic health conditions can be found at www.pc.gov.au.

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