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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Health Ministers reflect on the reforms and complexities facing the healthcare system

Health Industry Hub | March 1, 2024 |

Pharma News: Mark Butler MP, Federal Minister for Health, and Senator Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Health, reflected on the healthcare system dynamics and the challenges that lie ahead, in an address at the Australian Patient Advocacy Alliance (APPA) Patient Summit.

“We commemorate 40 years of Medicare, a cornerstone of our healthcare system, and it’s crucial to acknowledge how far we’ve come. But let’s not forget the work that still lies ahead to fortify this vital social program, of which the Labour Party takes immense pride,” emphasised Minister Butler.

The Minister acknowledged the current complexities facing healthcare, exacerbated by the aftermath of pandemic.

“Healthcare systems worldwide are strained, scarred by COVID, and facing an unprecedented demand-supply imbalance. Our workforce is exhausted, and we need to address deferred care issues and catch up on various medical procedures,” he said.

In acknowledging the important role of patients, he stated “We want to hear more from the patient voice and APAA is a terrific way to do that. It’s about institutionalising the patient voice in everything that we do. The Alliance brings disparate groups and sometimes disparate perspectives together to find common messages to give to me, to Anne Ruston and other policymakers.”

In the Q&A session, Minister Butler addressed inquiries about the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what comes out of it. The options paper is a really good spread of ideas and has stimulated a lively discussion. Our assessment and reimbursement systems were established when therapeutics neatly fit into silos, but now they’re more hybrid and personalised. Updating these systems to reflect the changing nature of therapeutics is an important part of the HTA Review.

“Interesting ideas about early access to medicines and learning from overseas are areas everyone is interested in. We need a more structured process than the current random ones, somewhat dependent on special access schemes from pharmaceutical companies. Once we get the final review, that’s the time for us to have a good look at it,” he commented.

Senator Anne Ruston, Shadow Minister for Health, said “I’m a great believer that technology and innovation is our future. Hence, the reason why I’m waiting with bated breath to see what comes from the HTA Review. How brave is the government in making the changes to shift the dial, where health is seen as an investment in our economy?”

Highlighting the importance of early intervention and diagnosis, Senator Ruston commented on targeting the health system and technological advancements strategically to change consumer life journey and ensure that the financial savings derived from these efforts are dedicated to providing more support services for Australians.

Minister Butler also outlined the Strengthening Medicare agenda. He elaborated on injecting funds into the system, particularly the tripling of the bulk billing incentive, and emphasised the need for digital reforms.

“We aim to restructure Medicare to meet the contemporary needs of patients dealing with chronic diseases. This involves multidisciplinary care, supporting primary care practices, and upgrading our digital health capabilities,” he said. “We’re working on enhancing this systems to create a genuinely interconnected and modern digital health system, putting the patient at its centre.”

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