Australian healthcare leaders’ advice on how to future-proof the healthcare system

Australia’s efforts to manage the pandemic response have been widely praised but it’s clear things shifted around the middle of the year, when our eastern states began a battle with the Delta variant. Meanwhile, the rest of Australia seemed to brace for its spread across the country.

Around the same time (in late May this year) the results of the world’s largest survey of healthcare leaders were released – and the Australian summary is both encouraging and reaffirming!

Encouraging – because it tells us that the vast majority (81%) of Australian healthcare leaders who responded to this survey, believe Australia’s healthcare system has shown resilience in the face of the pandemic.

Reaffirming – because it highlights there’s certainly more to be done to support our tireless frontline workers to maintain that resilience into the future. Why? Just 67% agreed that our current policies and plans were contributing to building a resilient future.

It’s worth keeping in mind that some months have passed since these views were sought from Australia’s healthcare leaders but, much of the feedback about where we should now be focused, remains relevant.

Australia’s healthcare leaders told us we need to continue investing in telehealth, increase investment in predictive healthcare like artificial intelligence and machine learning; and address challenges including lack of staff experience, limited funding, and stretched supply chains.

This feedback, summarised in the Future Health Index Report, seemed to attract minimal media attention earlier this year – likely because the focus was on the immediacy of the medical emergency unfolding.

However, this annual publication (now in its sixth year) provides us with an important snapshot of current challenges and predictions on future opportunities in healthcare, and shows Australia’s experience in context with healthcare perspectives around the globe.

Almost 3,000 healthcare leaders from 14 countries (including from Australia) participated in the survey in 2021, commissioned by Royal Philips, a Netherlands-based company (commonly known as Philips) known for leveraging advanced technology to develop solutions to health challenges.

It’s encouraging to see a focus locally, in some of the areas healthcare leaders have told us we need to prioritise – particularly high-tech and manufacturing that should help to address supply chain challenges.

In South Australia, there’s also a focus on growing industries that will provide greater access to artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, through Lot Fourteen, an innovation precinct in Adelaide’s CBD. And we have the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, driving greater options in the way we can treat cancer in Australia,

I’m looking forward to seeing how this focus on research, innovation and digital technologies benefits South Australia and the country more broadly!

If you haven’t read the Australian summary of the Future Health Index Report, check it out here and see if you think Australia’s healthcare system is preparing for the future: Future Health Index 2021 Australian Report (