Webinar: Creating a Sustainable Health System through Collaboration

The sixth webinar in the PCHSS 2020-2021 Webinar Series was on Creating a Sustainable Health System through Collaboration.

Event summary:

In this webinar, our speakers discussed the importance of collaboration with health consumers to create a resilient health system that serves the needs of the community. Leanne Wells discussed the risks that face Australia’s health system sustainability, and highlighted the need for consumer voices, leadership and insights contributing at all levels of the health system: research, policy, and service design.


Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells is the Chief Executive Officer of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia. She is a health service executive with over 25 years’ experience. Ms Wells has held executive positions within government and in national and state non-government organisations, most recently as CEO of the ACT Medicare Local. Throughout her career, she has worked in the health and social care sectors. Ms Wells is the Chair of the COORDINARE (SE NSW Primary Health Network) Community Advisory Committee, as well as a Board Director for COORDINARE, Board Director of the Ozhelp Foundation, Board Director of PainAustralia and a member of the clinical governance committee of Goodwin Aged Care Services. Ms Wells has tertiary qualifications in communications and business. She is a member of both the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Management.

Linda Beaver

Linda’s experience in the health sector is extensive and highly varied, from clinical practice to education and management, in the public and private sectors as well as University and Non-Government Organisations.  Her goal is to empower health consumers to become more engaged, informed, confident and aware of what to expect when navigating the challenges of the health system, while being a support person, as required, or intermediary when necessary. Driving change from the consumer perspective, can have an impact. The health consumer may be the bottom of the ‘pecking order’ however, these voices must be heard to influence the decision makers and facilitate change to truly reflect a person-centred health system.

Jahin Tanvir

Jahin is a commissioner at Wellbeing Health and Youth which forms the Centre of Research Excellence in Adolescent Health. From seeing the struggles of migrants and individuals of culturally linguistic background in his community faced when accessing health services, Jahin felt an innate responsibility to act and advocate for health and young people. In 2021, Jahin received the 2021 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year in Individual Community Service as well as recognition in the 7News Young Achiever awards for NSW/ACT. He is currently studying Optometry with ambitions in turning his career towards being a paediatric optometrist working in a hospital capacity.

During the session, the speakers received several questions from attendees and they provided the following responses:

Leanne mentioned that implementation is a major barrier – it’s not that we don’t know what needs to happen. So how can consumer health advocates help to drive implementation of change, as opposed to simply designing proposals for change?

Linda: One of the barriers to implementation is that as health consumers we still aren’t given permission to actively question, or ask, or be prepared to say, “No, that’s not going to work for me. What else can you offer me?”. That level of dialogue is not something that people are generally comfortable about utilising when they’re in that consultation process, and I think that’s one of the real stumbling blocks to embracing implementation.

Leanne: Often decision makers think of consumers, and consumer advocates, or consumer representatives as one homogeneous group. It’s more nuanced than that, and it needs to be more nuanced than that. A good consumer advocate can be as powerful a service designer, as a clinician just bringing a different set of skills. They can be co-researchers; they can sit at a policy table and help shape and determine policies as much – and often more effectively I would argue – than policymakers, because they’re bringing that lived experience.

It seems consumer involvement in Australia is at a very tokenistic mostly at a “show and tell” stage where consumers have to repeat their stories yet no change happens. [Is it] time for patient directors as per UK model and embed rights-based approaches?

Jahin: I think the furthest that we’ve gone is co-design; having young people part of the process when it comes to research, for instance, or in consultations, [discussing] how can we better create health research, how can we better communicate with the government and different organisations. I think that part comes back to the whole design process of allowing young people to be given a voice. When we talk about implementation, unfortunately, it comes back to the whole idea of just ticking a box, and tokenistic representation of young people. [Young people] are present…but they’re there for the sake of it. If we don’t really create a system where young people are given a seat on the table, whether it be in government meetings, or consultations with the government… if we don’t see our voices, and our concerns, and our stories being represented, it demotivates young people and makes them feel more hopeless.

What would be the strategies and recommendations for including everyone (especially the older population) in digital health? I am thinking about using mobile apps for self-management support, for example.

Linda: One of the things I hear from people out there in the community, around the country, is that digital health is great as one element of health service provision, but it’s got limited capacity in many ways. It’s great, it’s wonderful, it’s helped a lot of people through the last 12 months, however you can’t beat that examination, that touch, because that’s what health is about: it’s about examination, and touching & examining physically. It’s got a really strong place but it’s a place only as part of service provision.

Leanne: I think older people are already included in digital health, because we have seen uptake of it and associated things like e-prescribing in the last 18 months of the pandemic, but when it comes to a quality telehealth or digital health experience, which is really important from a consumer experience point of view, that was resoundingly the message. Telehealth is good for convenience and cost, but the preference is very strongly for telehealth as an adjunct, or an integrated part of what is otherwise delivered face-to-face by a trusted doctor, nurse, pharmacist or team that they have a relationship with.

You can watch all of the PCHSS webinars on our YouTube channel here.

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