Australian Governments should look at international best practices to facilitate better healthcare rationing as they grapple with health budget challenges, says a new health policy issues brief by Elizabeth Martin, Deeble Institute 2014 writing prize recipient, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.
“Governments will then be better placed to decide whether to continue funding programs, services and treatments or to fund better value for money programs, services and treatments instead,” says Martin.
The Choosing Wisely Australia, an NPS MedicineWise initiative, is a move in the right direction, Martin says, as it helps the medical community and patients start an important conversation about ways to improve the quality of care by addressing those tests, treatments and procedures where evidence shows they provide no benefit and in some cases, lead to harm.
And while Choosing Wisely is not focused on cost-effectiveness and efficiency, establishing a culture that avoids unnecessary tests and procedures is an important component of developing a more consistent, explicit and evidence-informed approach to healthcare rationing, says Martin.
Currently there are few examples such as the Pharmaceutical benefits Advisory Committee and the Medical Services Advisory Committee that use information on cost-effectiveness, she says.
“But overall there are a number of weaknesses in Australia’s healthcare rationing processes that are preventing evidence-based decision making on what should or should not continue to receive funding,” says Martin.
AHHA’s CEO Alison Verhoeven says wide consultation by governments is needed on healthcare rationing across all health sectors and services, clinicians and consumers as more work needs to be done.
“Though Choosing Wisely would efficiently inform the next stage as MSAC reviews existing Medical Benefits Schedule item numbers.
“Equally, reviewing existing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme products for their continued appropriateness and efficient cost is necessary as research and development in pharmaceutical technology continues to advance,” says Verhoeven.