Universal health access and consumer-centred care: Why we support the OECD view

Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Health Forum of Australia

At a time when universal health coverage struggles under the onslaught of rising costs and budgetary strains around the world, the OECD Ministerial Statement: The Next Generation of Health Reforms of 17 January 2017 offers much needed support to the ideal of equitable access to people-centred healthcare.

The statement welcomes the OECD's work on health, “to provide new insights on how to approach the next generations of health reforms in order to promote Universal Health Coverage, to maximise the contribution of health systems to productivity and more inclusive economies, and to help address common challenges”.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia is pressing for reforms that underpin equity in access to healthcare, thanks to consumer-centred services and policies which reflect the huge potential of contemporary medical knowledge and technology.

We realise that the plethora of advances in medicine and technology require highly expensive decisions and that those decisions need to balance the demands of universal access with development of the best available evidence-based care.

However, the consensus on this issue in OECD countries empowers the movement for the continued reshaping of health systems to reflect the best interests of the consumer, as expressed in the ministerial statement.

A striking feature of the ministerial statement is the extent to which it reflects the goals pursued by the Consumers Health Forum as Australia’s leading non-governmental health consumer advocacy organisation. It refers to rising patient expectations and a need for fundamental change in how people interact with health services. The Consumers Health Forum strongly supports an Australian government initiative to reform and strengthen primary health services for chronically ill people through its Health Care Homes strategy for co-ordinated, consumer-centred care.

Support for more consumer-oriented health information to address health literacy barriers and to help patients take an active role in their care decision-making is very much in line with our aspirations. We agree that people are still too often playing an insufficient role in decisions about their own treatment.

We are leading calls for a shift away from a provider-centred health system to one that focuses on individual needs, as recommended by the OECD.

And much of that individually-centred healthcare becomes more possible with the aid of digital technology. We acknowledge that the modernisation of patient care and information delivery involves complex challenges and significant behavioural change by consumers, patients and care providers.

What is clear is that placing the focus squarely on providing the best care and support available that meets individual patients’ needs and wishes, is unquestionably a goal we can all aspire to. 

Note: The Consumers Health Forum of Australia, a non-governmental organisation, represents more than 130 patient groups and national health organisations; visit https://chf.org.au  

Read the OECD Ministerial Statement: The Next Generation of Health Reforms, issued 17 January 2017, at http://oe.cd/1NL

See also: www.oecd.org/health/ministerial/

©OECD Observer 309 Q1 2017

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