Introductory Remarks, 'Forum on Quality of Care', OECD Headquarters, Paris.
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7 October 2010
Distinguished colleagues, members of the OECD, ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to thank the OECD for inviting me to chair this very valuable forum.
I’m delighted to be here – because pursuing better quality health care is one of the central tenets of the ambitious health reform agenda we are currently pursuing in Australia.
And so it is a great pleasure to be among colleagues, policy makers, researchers, health care professionals, civil society partners and consumers of health care, to explore new ways to meet the challenge of improving the quality of health care in our countries.
Can I begin by thanking the OECD for the work that has been done to date in this area since the Health Care Quality Indicators project began almost a decade ago.
Providing high-quality health care is of paramount concern to all of us. And as the discussion paper for today’s meeting points out – in order to improve quality of care, we need to measure it. And we need to be able to properly compare quality of care and health outcomes in our different countries so we can continue to learn from each other.
I’m very confident today’s forum will help us to move this important agenda forward.
From our different perspectives, we are all facing a common set of issues in promoting quality health care – both now, and into the future as the nature of the challenges our health systems face continually evolve.
Around the world, the incidence of chronic (though often preventable) diseases is increasing rapidly. Our populations are ageing, creating new challenges in providing high quality health care to older communities who are more likely to face multiple chronic diseases and co-morbidities. Medical research and technology is constantly evolving and providing new medicines, procedures and technologies to treat illness.
And in the wake of the global financial crisis, more so than ever, Government budgets are under strain – meaning there are no “blank cheques” for those of us who are health ministers looking to reform our countries’ health systems and improve quality of care. We face the need to ensure health dollars are being spent as effectively as possible – and we look to researchers and clinicians to help us find the ways to do this.
It is these shared challenges that I am hoping we will be able to grapple with today. That is:
- How do we assist clinicians translate evidence of what will deliver better quality healthcare and better health outcomes into clinical practice?
- How do we ensure our populations enjoy the benefits of access to new and emerging technologies, while being mindful of the need to balance access against cost?
- At the same time, how do we ensure that the most effective interventions which can deliver the greatest improvements receive the focus and resources that they need? For example, how do we ensure that simple interventions like hand-hygiene in hospitals become routine practice, given the effect they have on reducing hospital-acquired infections?
- How do we design our health systems to ensure that they are weighted to the kinds of care most likely to deliver better outcomes to our populations as a whole? For example, how do we ensure that there are sufficient focus and resources provided for prevention and primary care?
- And critically, how do we embed “continuous improvement” into our health systems – so they are agile and self-improving, and able to respond to the changing needs of our populations over time?
From my perspective this is a very opportune time to be holding this forum as Australia is in the process of implementing major reforms to improve health services and ensure the sustainability of our health system into the future.
In Australia our reform agenda is ambitious and far-reaching—and it has quality of health care at its core. We want to ensure all Australians have access to high quality and affordable health care into the future.
Today, at this forum, we all agree that people deserve and need more from their health system.
We will discuss our progress in measuring quality, and we will discuss strategies for promoting quality.
And we will keep our focus on ensuring that patients in all our countries receive care that is safer, more reliable, more responsive, more integrated and more accessible.
I look forward to hearing your experiences and views on how best to advance health care quality.
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