Effective healthcare doesn’t just happen. It is the result of deliberate efforts to improve the system.

Technological innovation, as well as the changing needs of different groups of people, mean that the system can’t stay still and must constantly innovate. Australia has a good health system but it could be much better.

It’s a common observation by people who use different kinds of health services that the system seems complex, one part does not work well with another, and many frustrations are experienced. Processes take too long, not enough of the required information is exchanged, the language used by health professionals is not understandable (and may as well be Martian).

Importantly, the insights, knowledge and know-how of people using services are ignored or not fully utilised. It is rare for care processes to be uniquely tailored to the social, cultural and personal characteristics of the people that need them.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has shown that better patient experience or ‘patient-centred’ care is linked to the kind of results we all want for ourselves and our families - improved safety and quality, lower costs, and improved patient and provider satisfaction. There is decreased mortality, improved care, lower length of stay in healthcare facilities, fewer medication errors, lower infection rates, fewer diagnostic tests and unnecessary referrals, and reduced costs. The way healthcare is organised and made available to such individuals is very important. However this is hard to get right, particularly in rural areas.

How healthcare connects to other services and resources in communities is also vital. In particular, there is a lot of room to improve health and social outcomes for Australians with a mental illness. Likewise, there are huge inequalities in healthcare quality and access across Australia. And there is also more that could be done to combat the growing incidence of chronic health disorders such as obesity and diabetes.

So what is needed to achieve effective healthcare?

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