When faced with a health problem, Australian health consumers frequently turn to the internet as a ready source of information. If they need medical advice however, their first port of call will usually be a GP. This is just the beginning of a long and arduous journey through a perplexing maze of different and disjointed healthcare services. These services are delivered by many different providers in and out of hospitals, through public or private systems, and funded by state, territory and federal governments and private health insurers. They range from GPs, pharmacies, and diagnostics to a variety of more complex specialist and medical services.
Not only that, but this multiplicity of different services leads to the fragmentation of health data and the creation of data silos. Although Australia compares well internationally in the quality of its healthcare delivery, the level of data fragmentation currently existing in this country is frustrating the possibility of efficient healthcare services and precluding the potential for better treatment outcomes. Even worse, it fails to facilitate continuity of care for the individual consumer as they move between different parts of the health system.
This is not simply a matter of treatment outcomes or efficiency. It is also a matter of consumer choice. Considering the highly fragmented nature of both service delivery and the variety of fees charged by public and private providers, it is nearly impossible for Australian consumers to have transparent and reliable access to appropriate healthcare services. They do not have sufficient information to compare different healthcare service options. They have very little awareness of the associated costs and quality of care offered by different service providers.
Consumers navigate a complex healthcare system flying blind.