What is so frustrating to me about the media storm around the safety and quality of healthcare is that the debate has been side-tracked by partisan positioning, leaving the real question unanswered.

Undeniably the safety and quality of healthcare is an important issue, but we should not allow a unilateral portrayal of adverse events to dominate the important discussion of healthcare funding.

Healthcare is complex and the cause and effect of adverse events are often subtle.  The implication that adverse events are always due to inadequate safety and quality measures is both flawed and dangerous – particularly if tied to a kind of punitive approach to funding.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority combined review of international funding models[1] found no material impact on outcomes when safety and quality measures were incorporated into hospital funding.  Additionally, it warned that these conditions, acquired during hospitalisation, could not necessarily have been prevented and do not imply that care was suboptimal.

Therefore, for me the real question that insurers, doctors, patients, hospitals and regulators need to be asking is, how can all parties best collaborate to optimise patient health outcomes whilst maintaining the affordability of healthcare?

At Doctors’ Health Fund, part of a mutual medical indemnity insurer, we have a unique perspective and that makes us carefully consider our role.

Our experience suggests private health insurers have a wealth of information that could provide useful insights into the efficacy, cost and utility of healthcare.  When used in healthcare planning this would mean more informed decisions about, and support for, efficacious and affordable healthcare.

We believe in an effective healthcare system that leverages its information to support better health outcomes and is adaptable to the unique complexities of each patient.

To secure this effective healthcare system we must heed the cautionary warning of the current dispute; progress without open and honest collaboration with all parties is destined to fail.

The way forward is for all parties to come together and work towards the continued funding of proven, evidenced based, best-practice healthcare that measures and supports positive long-term outcomes for patients.

As only one voice, in a conversation of hundreds, we do not know the answer, but we do know sidelining parties from this conversation is not an option.  We are concerned by moves towards a more adversarial approach.

We strongly believe our role, as an insurer, is to support the pivotal role of doctors in healthcare and help facilitate the discussion required to fund an effective healthcare system.

I am looking forward to the recommendations from Dr Hambleton’s Primary Health Care Advisory Group, regarding the collaborative approach to innovative care and funding models for improved patient outcomes.

At Doctors’ Health Fund, we will continue to use our resources to advocate on behalf of patients and doctors.  We support our members, as both providers and patients, in their freedom to choose their healthcare provider and we continue to promote a collaborative approach to funding.

[1] Health Policy Analysis 2013, Analysis of hospital-acquired diagnoses and their effect on case complexity and resource use – Final report, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Sydney.