The future of health in Australia

When most of us think about serious medical care, images of a large, modern hospital facilities come to mind. But what if the next time your illness required a hospital stay, the hospital bed came to your home.  And so did the health carers.  You’d be an in-patient who was, technically, an out-patient.Hospital

Home hospitals are already in operation in Australia, along with other innovative mechanisms to deliver health services.

For example, the West Australian company, Silverchain, which is one of the largest not-for-profits in the sector and has the equivalent of over 4,000 full-time staff, has fully automated its home care service.  Carers don’t return to home base every day, but make visits directly to patients.  Specialists and doctors are also being hired in this way, in a trend that is dramatically disrupting the health and medical industry.

We have to be clever about health care delivery because, from the point of view of government expenditure, it is the fastest growing sector.  More and more of our tax dollars are going to feed this hungry beast.  The growth is driven, in large part, by our rapidly ageing population.  In the next 20 years, the number of people aged over 70 will double.

On an international comparison, Australians are quite healthy.  Our life expectancy figures keep improving, whereas, in the United States, life expectancies are actually reducing.  That’s interesting because, on a per capita basis, both our governments spend about the same amount of money on health but we get a much bigger bang for our buck.  The Australian system is internationally-recognised as being very well designed.

The new National Disability Insurance Scheme is also going to be pumping funds into this sector.  The number of people who will be requiring disability services is forecast to increase from 70,000 to 400,000 over the next five years.  The problem is that we don’t have an established culture of supporting people with disabilities and we don’t have sufficient providers to respond to this estimated increase in demand.  It’s likely that disability services will leverage existing aged-care service provision.

The future of health in Australia will also have a different spatial, or geographic, look.  Already we are seeing new health precincts, where different medical and health services are clustering together.  There’s Sunshine in Melbourne, Westmead in Sydney and on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Oceanside at Kawana Waters is the focus for the regional hospital network and community health services.  These hubs not only bring the range of health providers together, they include retail and accommodation, creating whole communities.

The fastest employment growth is also being experienced in the health sector.  Over the next 10 years, this sector will be a key driver of jobs - especially of jobs outside the recognised CBD areas and outside the acute hospital sector.  We are going to see significant growth in fields such as pathology and other screening clinics, palliative care, allied health services and home care: A real mix of high-tech and one-on-one health care.

Brian Haratsis is MacroPlan’s Founder and Executive Chairman. Brian is an economist and future strategist with over 30 years experience as an advisor to governments and major corporate clients throughout Australia and New Zealand. For more information or to discuss your property research requirements, please contact Amy Williams on 02 9221 5211 or