Champions of change: how governments can lead healthcare transformation

While virtually all countries have struggled with Covid-19 responses from time to time, the global pandemic and the public’s belief that their government must keep them safe has also provided an opportunity for governments to show that they can be flexible, innovative and focused on result. In response to real-time data, major decisions have been made – imposing curfews, lockdowns, introducing public health measures such as wearing masks, and eventually rolling out vaccination programs.

The rules have been changed or suspended to facilitate the issuance of emergency vaccine use permits, allow for retraining and redeployment of staff, facilitate data sharing, and support the introduction of new digital tools. Partnerships with the private sector have enabled services to go online and accelerate vaccine development, testing and production.

The pandemic has forced governments to rethink every aspect of their healthcare systems. This includes the size and shape of the workforce, digital infrastructure, disease surveillance, research, supply chain speed and resilience, access to healthcare, data usage, regulation and service integration. It has also reignited debate about factors that contribute to poor health, such as overcrowding, which contributes to the transmission of Covid-19, and conditions such as obesity, which have greatly increased the risk of dying from Covid-19.

What role should the government play?

In the pursuit of a future of digitally-based, people-centered health, governments need to take the lead as drivers of innovation and partners in change. Regulatory flexibility, investment in technology and people, and support for the right partners from the public and private sectors will enable governments to be catalysts for change.

Digital health is by no means the preserve of wealthier countries. On the contrary, developing countries seeking universal health access are increasingly looking to the reach and economies of scale offered by digital technologies to provide services at a much lower cost than would be possible without network technologies.

Since health care is a key policy issue, governments are tempted to develop prescriptive plans for its structure and delivery. But the speed and complexity of changes in technology, attitudes and expectations means that any rigid scheme is in danger of becoming obsolete quickly.

Governments that are not directly responsible for providing health care should:

• Set systemic values ​​such as social solidarity and the right to affordable health care, quality standards and goals such as increasing access or providing adequate mental health services.

• Establish pricing and record confidentiality rules and create an innovation environment that ensures a flexible, adaptable workforce.

The levels of public funding and its distribution have a profound effect on the scale of health care and the behavior of systems. Traditional fee-for-service payment models incentivize volume of services rather than quality, which increases costs and reduces productivity. On the contrary, incentives to manage population health and focus on outcomes are more likely to promote healthy behavior in the population and provide value for money. Financial incentives can also leverage new forms of care that improve access or quality, such as virtual consultations, by adding them to reimbursement and subsidy schedules.

Regulation can equally help or hinder the improvement and transformation of care. While setting limits on professional practice helps ensure quality and safety, setting rigid boundaries between professions can prevent staff from making full use of their skills, perpetuate outdated work practices, and make interdisciplinary teamwork difficult.

In addition to the health care system, governments must understand the impact of factors such as housing, education and employment on people’s physical and mental health. There is now considerable international evidence that the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age are key determinants of their health. The social determinants of health are, in turn, influenced by factors such as the performance of the economy, the distribution of power, gender equality and social values.

The excerpt was taken from the KPMG Thought Leadership post:

© 2023 RG Manabat & Co., a Philippine partnership and a member firm of KPMG’s global organization of independent firms, members of KPMG Intl. Ltd., a private English limited company. All rights reserved.

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This article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice on a particular subject or organization. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent BusinessMirror, KPMG International, or KPMG in the Philippines.