Dr Linda Swan: A year in review for Medibank

Dr Linda Swan reflects on some of Medibank's achievements in 2016.

Written by Dr Linda Swan
Dr Linda Swan takes a look at some of Medibank's achievements in 2016

2016 has been a busy and exciting year in my role as Chief Medical Officer and not without its challenges.

Medibank is a large organisation, with multiple teams working on a wide range of ambitious projects. It can therefore be challenging to absorb the entirety of our work. As we reach the end of the year, I want touch on a few particular moments through the year where I have been especially proud of what we have achieved.

Empowering patients with chronic and complex conditions

With changing lifestyles and an ageing population, chronic conditions are among the biggest challenges faced by the Australian health system today.

Although we have seen life expectancy increase, one of the disadvantages is that people are living longer with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

With a driving purpose For Better Health, our Population Health Delivery Networks team is busy delivering CareComplete - a range of integrated services that support patients with chronic and complex conditions across the care continuum.

Through our initial pilot and roll out of the programs, we are already working with some 1,400 GP clinics and 2,600 individual GPs to deliver CareComplete to around 5,500 Australians, including Medibank members and public and other private patients. I am so encouraged by the preliminary results which will be shared in late 2017.

Keep reading about CareComplete here.

Collaboration with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

In our collaboration with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) we are proud to have published a series of Surgical Variance Reports, to better understand variances in the way care is provided.

“Understanding clinical variation is becoming increasingly important both locally and internationally.” David Watters

For the first time in Australia, the reports seek to visualise surgeons’ comparative performance and raise questions for individuals around indicators such as complication rates, length of patient stay and fees charged for their services.

The data contained in these reports is based on analysis of Medibank claims data from 2014, which the College working party reviewed and commented on to produce a report for surgeons. We want to provide useful data to clinicians to prompt discussions about variations, and lead to greater understanding for us and for clinicians on what constitutes good practice.

We are continuing to work with RACS to identify opportunities to improve and enhance these reports so that they are as meaningful and useful as possible. The reports can be viewed here and we welcome everyone's feedback and comments.

The re-launch of the Medibank Better Health Foundation

We have relaunched and re-focused the research arm of our business!

Formerly known as the Medibank Health Research Fund, the newly named Medibank Better Health Foundation will now focus on osteoarthritis - one of the biggest health issues today that remains one of the most neglected areas of health care in terms of research funding.

The condition, which affects 1.9 million Australians, costs the health system $3.75 billion each year. And, alarmingly, up to 70 per cent of osteoarthritis is preventable by avoiding excess weight gain and joint injuries.

To celebrate the relaunch and re-focus of the Foundation, fitness ambassador Michelle Bridges recently led an exercise session at Medibank Place to draw attention to the importance of exercise and weight management to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.

As such, I donned my active wear in the name of research!

Through the Medibank Better Health Foundation, we are helping to turn research based evidence into action by working closely with both the research sector and clinicians on the ground.

In 2017, the Foundation will host the Australian Osteoarthritis Summit to bring experts and opinion leaders together to foster collaboration in research, develop research priorities and identify initiatives and strategies to advance research. More information on the Summit will follow in the New Year.

A focus on patient reported experiences

Going to hospital is often a stressful and overwhelming time.

I want to better understand the health care journey and in-hospital experiences of our members to ensure that they are receiving quality services and treatments.

In October this year, we launched a program to survey Patient Reported Experience Measures (PREM) using the internationally validated HCAHPS tool.

A PREM survey is more than a satisfaction survey. It systematically measures a patient’s factual experience of their stay in hospital. The survey covers aspects such as communication with doctors and nurses, pain management, the hospital environment etc.

This information will allow us to advocate for our members and celebrate those hospitals that provide exceptional healthcare experiences for our members.

So far the results from our initiatives have shown Medibank can collaborate with others in ways that can improve our members’ health, their care experience, and the affordability of their treatment.

The New Year brings a new opportunity to hold ourselves to a higher standard of customer service, and ensuring we continue to put customers’ health needs first.

We have some exciting things planned for 2017, so watch this space!

Written by Dr Linda Swan

As the Chief Medical Officer for Medibank Private, Linda is focused on improving the health outcomes and patient experience for 3.8 million members, as well as finding ways to keep the cost of healthcare affordable.

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