Healthcare beyond the pandemic: Where does Victoria head next?

McKell Roundtable Panel Examines Post-Pandemic Healthcare In Victoria

Policies to combat healthcare staff fatigue, address deferred, non-pandemic related surgeries, and create a financially sustainable funding model for the future are top concerns

A recent McKell Institute-hosted policy roundtable examined the key post-pandemic issues facing the Victorian healthcare system and the possible policies that Government could adopt to address the urgent concerns of healthcare worker fatigue, the backlog of non-pandemic related surgeries, and the need for new financial models to assure the system’s economic sustainability.

The roundtable, moderated by Ryan Batchelor, McKell’s Executive Director for Victoria, included a number of distinguished experts, including:

  • Kirsten Davidson. The EMR Lead Nurse Educator at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne who focuses on nursing workflows and EMR usability initiatives centred on technology integration to improve nurse efficiency, timeliness of care, and patient safety outcomes. She also holds a clinical nurse role working as a member of the Platypus nursing team caring for patients and their families requiring specialist care for a range of surgical specialities.
  • Angela Jackson. A health economist who previously served on the Board of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and who now serves as the lead economist at Impact Economics.
  • Roderick McRae. A full-time salaried consultant Anaesthetist and Intensive Care Physician at Monash Health. Current President of AMA Victoria and President of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation (Victoria). Additionally, Dr. McRae is a bioethicist and admitted lawyer and works upon a wide array of medical and legal issues affecting Victorian healthcare.
  • Brett Newstead. A director with Zebra Technologies in Australia who advises healthcare providers on how to effectively utilise secure mobile technologies that digitise administrative workflows, automate data capture, enhance team collaboration, and optimise critical asset use.

The panel’s discussion highlighted the interconnection between healthcare worker well-being, enhanced patient care, overall system performance, financial sustainability, and technology. Following the panel’s discussion, Ryan Batchelor of the McKell Institute, noted, “There’s no doubt that a holistic approach, one that recognises the interconnectedness of challenges and capabilities, is what is needed as we move forward from the pandemic.  Government needs to make sure that innovative approaches, based on proven models and technologies, are part of Victoria’s going forward plan.”

There was considerable panel discussion about the impact of the pandemic upon nurses and other healthcare workers and how government can best support those on the frontline of healthcare going forward. This led to a review of a wide array of issues, including the collection and use of patient data and how a combination of data and technology can help relieve overworked healthcare professionals while fostering improved patient outcomes and better managing the overall healthcare supply chain.

Dr. Roderick McRae stated that “One thing I want to say [coming] out of this crisis, we have got to do stuff differently… I can’t overstate [how] stressful it is it because it’s a crisis and it seems such a shame to waste it”.  He noted that while vaccination efforts have been good and vaccination efforts must continue, better efforts are needed to make sure that “health care workers, medical, nursing people going into people’s homes” have the required personal protective equipment to safeguard themselves.

A similar concern from a patient care perspective was stated by Kirsten Davidson who noted that “[we] really need to ask nurses what they need to do their jobs correctly and properly… also there needs to be a big investment in terms of money in technology that helps us, enables us, to do our job properly… [investment in] the things that would free up me to actually provide care.”

In meeting the need for enhanced frontline healthcare worker support, greater health supply chain visibility, and overall improved patient care, sustainable funding solutions will be needed.  Dr. Angela Jackson noted that problems with case mix funding existed before the pandemic “as NDIS blockages were already a major concern for policymakers.” The fact that the private system had capacity while the public system lacked it was discussed and it was suggested that policymakers might consider shifting elective surgeries to the private system. There was also discussion on how to manage NDIS patients who should be cared for in other places and settings.

Brett Newstead of Zebra Technologies discussed his company’s long history in healthcare technologies and the role that such technologies can play in relieving staff fatigue and in improving both overall system performance and healthcare supply chain management. He also advocated the piloting of the successful UK NHS “Scan4Safety” demonstrator programme which has generated substantial benefits to both patients, healthcare workers, and healthcare supply chain management.

“I’ve learned that the UK NHS’ Scan4Safety program leverages the power of digitisation through the use of GS1 barcode standards.  It creates significant benefits in such areas as patient safety, the more effective tracing of patients and their treatments, better monitoring capital equipment utilisation, and enhanced management of the medical supply chain. All of these things have been made even more important by the pandemic because they all relate to untethering nursing staff from the drudgery of filling out forms and dealing with endless administrative tasks. As we exit the pandemic, it is important to focus on proven solutions, and I think our colleagues at the UK NHS are to be congratulated for creating and providing an effective, proven model for us to consider. We look forward to supporting the Government and other key stakeholders, such as the ANMA, in gaining the workforce quality of life benefits that Scan4Safety has created.”


12 May 2022