Forum focuses on new direction for primary care

How can we better collaborate to address the changing context of primary care?

This was the central question keynote speaker Professor Hal Swerissen’s sought to address at WA Primary Health Alliance’s second Better Health, Together forum last week.

A man, Professor Hal Swerissen, stands with a microphone in his hand in front of a laptop.
Keynote speaker Grattan Institute Visiting Fellow, Professor Hal Swerissen.

Professor Swerissen, Visiting Fellow at the Grattan Institute, started his presentation by encouraging the more than 100 people – a cross section of health, social services, consumer and government representatives – in attendance to collectively consider the unique opportunities within Western Australia.

He said in response to changing economic and social circumstances in the last 25 years there had been an enormous expansion of primary and community services.

Professor Swerissen said traditional service delivery options had either focused on hospital expansion into community settings (corporate vertical integration) or centred on extended care organisations and corporate entities (corporate horizontal integration).

But an alternative was emerging in the form of Integrated Health Groups, Professor Swerissen said, where practitioners and smaller agencies formally worked together.

“They agree to work together for agreed prevention, acute care and complex care programs,” he said.

“They retain their autonomy for other purposes.”

He said Australia was primed to adapt and borrow from the experiences of countries that were already utilising network integration, such as the US, UK and New Zealand, with many of the elements already in place in WA.

A woman shows a laptop with a pie chart to a group of people sitting around her.
A cross section of health, social services, consumer and government representatives were in attendance.

In concluding his presentation, Professor Swerissen said in order to accomplish this, a system approach to guide and test change would need to be developed and agreed upon.

WA Primary Health Alliance CEO, Learne Durrington, said Professor Swerissen had challenged the forum to tackle the question of how to improve care and integration across the health system to prevent high costs, poor experience and poor health outcomes.

“The work of the Grattan Institute, and thought leadership of Professor Swerissen, is shaping the way WA Primary Health Alliance is approaching complex care and integration,” she said.

“Primary Health Networks have a leading role in curating a network integration approach, such as exploring regionally contextual models of the Integrated Health Groups.”

Following the presentation, guests split into groups and were encouraged to ask questions about Professor Swerissen’s vision for primary care.

WA Primary Health Alliance’s state-wide structure and strong partnerships offers an opportunity to shape a health system fit for the future. To do this, means learning from the challenges of the past and embracing the opportunities ahead.

Access Professor Swerrisen’s presentation here.