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Government policy changes are needed to facilitate greater choice for public hospital patients undergoing elective surgery, a report finds.
The Productivity Commission is currently exploring the potential to introduce greater choice within public hospitals to empower patients, improve hospital quality and generate better health outcomes.
State and territory governments are also interested in greater competition for public hospital services, although to date this has primarily focused on commissioning and contestability of non-clinical services.
The research, by Macquarie University’s Centre for the Health Economy (MUCHE), undertaken with funding from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, finds Australians would value greater choice over public hospitals for elective surgery, and value quality over convenience. Given the right response from hospitals, this could improve hospital quality, health outcomes, efficiency and equity.
However, it notes reducing barriers to exercising patient choice is one of the key policy prescriptions required by government.
The report says there are potentially several barriers to exercising informed choice in health care, such as greater travel costs and an increased opportunity cost of time waiting for surgery.
“One way to stimulate greater choice for public patients undergoing elective care could be through government subsidies to cover travel and accommodation expenses for those patients willing to choose a non-local hospital,” the research finds.
Subsidised travel and accommodation has been used in some European countries to manage hospital waiting times. Travel and accommodation assistance is available in Australia such as the NSW government’s Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS).
Governments must secondly introduce incentives for hospitals to respond to patient demand for quality.
This article was originally published by the Australian Financial Review.