Live Better

Health of the nation – George Savvides

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six Australian health organisations.

Medibank is Australia’s largest provider of private health insurance and health solutions.

Describe your role

Medibank is a government business enterprise employing 4,500 people, half of whom are health professionals. My role as Managing Director is to lead the organisation to commercially perform in a competitive market and ensure a sustainable, affordable health future.

What do you believe are the biggest health challenges in Australia?

The rising costs of healthcare present a major challenge to our healthcare system, driven by technology, lifestyle, expectation, and an ageing population. These factors demand consumption at a growth rate that is faster than affordability.

There is a moment in the future when the pressure on this upward ‘cost curve’ will come to an even more extreme level, and that is as the baby boomers move into full retirement. We need to ensure we are in a position to maintain access and quality during this future transition by reversing the direction of this cost curve.

What do you believe are the biggest health opportunities in Australia?

An opportunity for healthcare reform exists by shifting from a random healthcare approach to a coordinated approach.

Our current system is not conducive to best pathways for healthcare, it is actually designed for random choices. You choose a GP, they choose a specialist, they direct you to a sub-specialist, and it goes on. These choices are often determined by the size of the consultation book, geographic preferences and relationships, not about delivering the best or the most economic care. These random choices drive high utilisation, high variation in quality and high waste.

This opportunity is not about providing more care, it’s about providing the right care. The right care is coordinated care, and it focuses on making calls about what is not necessary and what is sufficient.

What is Medibank doing to improve the health of Australia?

We are shifting our focus from being a provider of health insurance to one of health assurance. To be a good health insurer we need to be a good economic steward of the health fund; to be a great health insurer, we have to understand what health is. Without that, we couldn’t provide our customers with the best care, the best outcome and the best guidance through an often complex health system.

Investing in new technologies such as virtual healthcare that will ease the burden on traditional daytime bricks and mortar practices and make access to a health professional easier for people at all times of the day and night.

Based on your role, knowledge and experience what advice do you have for Australians to improve their health?

Commit to daily exercise, share it with someone so that it becomes easier to achieve. Build a routine and schedule to help make exercise a regular activity.

Decide to make health your cause and your responsibility. Live for better health and make it a part of your thinking every day.

If you were Prime Minister for a day what would be the top three things you would do to improve the health of Australia?

Lift the role of the General Practitioner in the health system by tackling the culture that you are a better doctor if you specialise and reward the ‘health team coach’ role GPs can play in people’s lives.

Continue to support the direction of virtual healthcare and the opportunity it presents for reform. Along with the convenience of 24/7 access to health resources with no geographical limitations, virtual healthcare has the potential to extend the working life of semi-retired health professionals by enabling them to work from home.

Reverse the upward direction of healthcare costs by taking out the random, unplanned nature of our system and replacing it with the coordinated, facilitated model.

What was the most recent global conference/industry event you attended and strongest message you took away?

I attended the CEO Forum of the International Federation of Health Plans. There was an excellent paper by Booz & Co. looking at the significant impact you can have on reversing the upward trend of healthcare costs by removing some of the diagnostic tests and practices that are often only performed as a matter of routine. Their summary was that the right care is affordable. Random, or routine care without substance, is wasteful.

In terms of health conditions, dementia was presented as our greatest health challenge and one that will really stand on its own in severity into the future.

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