Ahead of CCI’s Lighthouse Leadership Series Corporate Lunch on Wednesday 12 October, the chief of WA’s number one health insurer talks to our news team about his vision for a radically different looking national healthcare sector.
Rob Bransby paints an interesting, if worrying, picture of the Australian health system right now: 24 million people, eight states and territories each with their own health system, one federal system over the top (sort of), 1300 hospitals, 400,000 private health care providers, 133 million GP visits a year. Arms and legs flailing in every direction, rarely making contact.
“Not one part of the system talks to itself or the other parts of the system,” Bransby says. “You could go to your GP tomorrow and he or she wouldn’t know that you’ve just been in hospital. It’s extraordinary.”
“Centralise our health records”
As Managing Director of HBF, Bransby is an advocate for change in the sector. He’s not saying that everything is broken – indeed, Australia’s system still stacks up very nicely against others around the world – but rather that the sliding door opportunity for reform is open, has been for some time, and as a nation we’re overdue to tackle some looming problems.
“If I had a magic wand, the first thing I would do is centralise all our health records,” Bransby says. “Everyone would have an e-health record and it would be available to everyone administering health care.
“We need to build data, pull networks together and deliver it all on digital platforms.
“You think about all the information people put into, say, people’s FitBits now. Where does it go? Nowhere. That sort of primary health care information could be invaluable. And it really informs a more preventative model of health care, whereas for too long we’ve been all about the cure. That mindset can’t continue.”
It can’t continue, Bransby says, because not only do we have a rapidly ageing population in Australia but also the pendulum is swinging back to a public-centric health system – and that system can’t withstand the pressure and demand.
“In the early 2000s, the Howard Government introduced incentives to increase participation in private health care for those people who could afford it and that made a huge difference – an important difference.
“There was, for a time, a 50-50 balance between private and public and that was a good, workable balance.
“In recent times, the government has pulled back on its support for the private sector; they’ve introduced tougher means testing and the costs of health care are generally going up. So people are dropping out of the private health insurance system – usually because they’re healthy. The unhealthy generally stay in the system and that affects the balance of things. Premiums go up.”
“Get a balanced health system”
Bransby concedes he has a tough marketing job ahead of him.
“I want a balance. A balanced system between public and private health care is what works. So I don’t wish to promote private health insurance at the expense of anything else. Our public system exists for a reason.”
But he does want a healthier Australia. “I genuinely do,” he says. “Chronic health conditions can be stopped in their tracks with earlier diagnoses of basic red flags. People can be offered support at much earlier stages of their condition.
“A fully digitised system would have touch points all along a person’s health journey. I honestly believe that digital health technology is the catalyst for change in our nation’s system and I embrace it.”
► Listen to Rob Bransby explore the need for fundamental changes to Australia’s health sector at CCI’s Lighthouse Leadership Series on Wednesday, 12 October – Tickets available now.