WA News Letters Consumers’ Intrinsic Roles
Consumers’ Intrinsic Roles
Written by Ms Pip Brennan
Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Dear Editor,

Re: Doctors Drum: Training and ‘Dud’ Doctors and Hello Consumer Directed Care (November edition): The Health Consumers’ Council acknowledges the wisdom of the saying from Patient Opinion CEO Michael Greco “The expert is on both ends of the stethoscope.” The lived experience of the patient needs to play an essential role in health service planning, delivery and review.

Medical training is the obvious starting point and the opportunity in transformation is to have consumers both co-designing and delivering training. There is nothing more transformative than a well-told story, as the WA Clinical Senate consistently proves through its inclusion of a consumer presentation for each debate topic.

Being able to communicate the vital importance of the questions such as “what’s most important to you?” and “what’s your understanding of your condition right now?” uncovers the information that only the patient can provide, and unlocks the opportunity for a positive and safe health care episode.

Another key opportunity in training is to plant the seeds of the well-performing team – doctors do not work in a vacuum in the hospital setting. The danger with our current medical training and indeed all our health professions’ training is that people are trained to work in their discipline, but not across disciplines. The opportunity to increase inter-disciplinary training and activities will support a safer, more patient-focused health service.

In regards to consumer directed in-home care for the elderly, it seems counter-intuitive that a health consumer advocacy agency would be anything other than positive about consumer-directed reforms. November’s Medical Forum was full of the importance of moving from a regimented, service-directed orientation to one where the consumer is at the centre. All of it is exciting and positive.

However, what happens when the consumer is in a vulnerable position, unable to make informed decisions?

Self-praise is no recommendation, but what else will consumers have to go by other than each organisation’s information about their services, which is hardly going to be disinterested?

Can we be sure there will be no aged care equivalent of the travesties that occurred in the training sector when this was privatised? How are consumers able to know with confidence that their choice is truly be the best option? How will it work if a commitment has been made with a provider, the relationship has crumbled and the consumer is faced with fees or charges in moving onto another person?

These important questions will need answers.

Ms Pip Brennan, ED Health Consumers Council WA