Monday, May 16, 2016

Seniors Health Roundtable - 11 May 2016, Canberra

The ACT Government has an Active Ageing Framework that sets out the Government’s priorities for active ageing over the next three years. The framework articulates the Government's vision for all senior Canberrans to lead active, healthy and rewarding lives as valued members of our community. One of the guiding principles is the health care is affordable and accessible This means that health services are community based in addition to hospitals.
HCCA had been advocating for a focussed discussion with community members on ways to improve access to health services for older people. We were pleased when the Active Ageing Framework was released and they included an action to convene a round table on health of older people. We participated in the Steering Committee for this round table and our members turned out in force at the event on 11 May 2016.
The round table was opened by Chris Bourke MLAMinister for Seniors and Veterans.
HCCA President, Dr Sue Andrews, spoke at the round table about the challenges in transitions in care. Her speaking notes are included here.

Theme: Transitions in Care – continuity of care across services

I would also like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet. I respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. I pay my respects to their elder past and present.

I am very pleased to be here today. The health of older people is one of the health policy priority areas for HCCA. We also have a very active group of members and consumer representatives who are involved in a consumer reference group who identify and advocate for the health of older people in the ACT and surrounding region.  Much of what I say in these introductory comments is informed by their work.

As health care consumers in many different settings, older people are particularly conscious of the frequency and quality of the transitions in care that they experience as they traverse the health system. As well as a general practitioner or family doctor, they are likely to have several other health care practitioners, often specialising in one organ system, disease or condition. They may receive this care in settings such as GP rooms and other private practitioners’ clinics, in a hospital (private or public), in a rehabilitation facility and in a long term facility such as in aged care.

Healthcare delivery is increasingly complex and multidisciplinary, and where the health care system is complex and often fragmented, good continuity of care across services is not always easy to achieve. When it is not working well people may not adequately understand their health problems and may not know which practitioner to talk to when they do have problems and questions. It is vital that older people are supported to access health literacy programs so they can be well informed and participate as much as possible in managing their own health care.

For consumers the challenges for achieving optimal transitions of care across health services relate to having many practitioners, many settings and many rules (eg about where different clinicians can practice, who has responsibility for different pieces of patient information).

Lack of access to health care can also contribute to disruption of continuity of care. Some older people may miss follow up appointments because they don’t have transport to their GP’s office, or need GP care after hours (sometimes resulting in a call to the ambulance to go to the Emergency Dept). They may not see their specialist because they can’t afford it. And they may not know what actions they need to follow if they have not received information that respects their cultural background or is in a language they cannot understand.

The Australian Safety and Quality Framework for Healthcare, under the principle of consumer centred care, identifies improvements in continuity of care as a key area for action. “Continuity of care for patients must apply within the healthcare team as well as between any team and other health professionals”. (p4)

One of the most important things for consumers is that each health practitioner they see is aware of their medical history, their social circumstances and their treatment plan. Lack of this information can cause considerable anxiety and frustration for patients (and the health practitioner) and can cause delays in appropriate treatment, duplication of investigations and even the provision of inappropriate care. (AQSH Framework p5)

Transitions in care for consumers always need to involve efficient and timely clinical handover. “Clinical handover is the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for the patient…to another person or professional group…Clinical handovers occur at shift change (in hospital), when patients are transferred between health services or wards, as well as during admission, referral or discharge.” (p5) Millions of clinical handovers occur annually in Australia and this is therefore a high risk area for patient safety with consequences that can be serious.

At all points in the process of transitions in care, communication between practitioners and with consumers and their families and carers is very important. Use of both paper based and electronic medical records are critical for handover and transfer documentation, as is working with patients to make sure they have sufficient information and understanding of their treatment to be able to effectively participate in maintaining the continuity of their own care.

Some of the issues that have been identified for discussion at this afternoon’s roundtable about transitions in care include:
·         High quality transitions in care through careful integration of services;
·         Avoiding gaps in care during critical transitions;
·         Effective communication with the consumer, their family, and other healthcare providers;
·         Complete transfer of information – a patient safety issue;
·         On- going access to health literacy for older people and their families and other care givers;
·         Access to essential services and a single point person to ensure effective coordination and continuity of care;
·         Health assessment processes that ensure consumers are supported to achieve the best health outcomes depending on their situation and condition;
·         Unnecessary or inappropriate transfer of residents of aged care facilities to hospital Emergency Departments; and
·         Availability of community nursing and community health services to enable people to return to their homes with appropriate support after discharge from hospital.

For most of us in this room today these are not new issues. So I look forward to our discussions this afternoon which will I hope focus on some innovative solutions for the healthcare system and improved outcomes for older health care consumers in our community.

Sue Andrews, 
President, Health Care Consumers Association ACT.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Report from a Consumer Rep - Online feedback for users, carers and providers

Below is a report by Consumer Representative Bernard Borg-Caruana on a recent session he attended on online feedback for users, carers and providers.

Online feedback for users, carers and providers

This session provided the challenges of gathering and publishing online feedback and recommended ways of increasing the potential of this avenue for users, carers and providers.

Lisa Trigg of the London School of Economics and Political Science presented on online rating and reviews for care providers.

This is in relation to the MyAgedCare website. The presentation for Aged Care  is where the Australian Government is implementing it. However in the UK it applies to all facilities and similar principles apply.

Aged Care covers:  community care, residential aged care and high care facilities.

How can you measure quality and the consumer experience?


1. Why is it important?
2. Policy Context
3. Example
4. Challenges
5. Opportunities

Why is it Important?

Online reviews are the new word of mouth that 54% of adult consumers use before making purchases. 

Twitter and opinions empower patients.

We want consumer directed care and empowered consumers

Gravity of the decision

Difficulty of moving between providers


You can only really assess the service once you have experienced it 

We trust providers.

UK bodies:  CMA + Care Quality Commission (CQC) +  NHS Choices all have a strong interest in this

After engaging constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), 2 websites for finding tradespeople, Checkatrade and Trustatrader, and the care home review sites, Care Opinion and Most Recommended Care, have all agreed to improve their practices. These improvements address concerns that were raised following a call for information by the CMA on online reviews and endorsements.


The example is often given of Trip Advisor but some excellent lessons from Amazon (particularly regarding Fake Reviews).

Trip Advisor is usually ignored until you’re travelling somewhere where you have no experience: you have to use it.

People go out to dinner and do not review their experience but when selecting a restaurant will look at the star rating.

Some characteristics of aged care settings are “inelastic”:

1. Once you pick a facility you are unlikely to change it; even with bad experiences, a change in care, especially for dementia patients, can be detrimental but social dislocation is a factor for all residents. It is not the same as switching to a new product.

2. The gravity of the decision: How do you know that your loved one would have lived longer or had a happier life at another facility.  This is challenging in retrospect but even more challenging in Prospective decision making.

3. This is not like a diagnosis. You cannot get a second opinion. All care is individual. How can you be sure you have the right care.  

4. Cost of moving—recovering deposits

5. Choice is limited: Availability of services and proximity to the support network.

Residential Aged Care turnover is low and if there is no vacancy. It is unlikely that a consumer will check it out. Could end up with skewed reviews.

Who reviews?

Digital Inclusion reports in Australia and UK equivalent (OFCOM 2013): 

Older people are less likely to be on the internet entering reviews. They spend less time on the internet and few push information 

In Australia less than 10% of Indigenous Aboriginal's have IT access outside cities.

Wisdom of crowds – Surowiecki, 2004

Motivations: Some are altruistic and want to help others make better decisions but others think they can help the providers improve service

How do you know you’re getting a trusted reviewer? Some sites publish a number of reviews performed by a reviewer --- may not be useful in aged care as turnover is low.

Fake reviews— are big business – Amazon is suing publishers and providers of fake reviews.

Fake reviews by providers are a big issue and difficult to manage.

Positive reviews of their business and negative reviews for competitors—See Amazon’s experience

One review in the UK described a facility as excellent; 4 reviews over 3 years said 2 average and 2 terrible; NHS assessment, many areas were average and many below par and is always bordering on being closed down.


Laws --- ACCC in Australia – false and misleading claims--  

You can also be held responsible for posts or public comments made by others on your social media pages which are false or likely to mislead or deceive consumers.

Businesses using social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have a responsibility to ensure content on their pages is accurate, irrespective of who put it there.

Monitor your social media pages 


Access to technology

Sufficient knowledge – technical knowledge to assess all aspects of the facility

Some large organisations may get good average reviews but may have a terrible eg chemotherapy unit ie not all services are the same.

Sometimes the people in the home are not in a position to advise you if they are getting the right care eg dementia patients.

Fear of reprisal and retribution – if you see bruising on your parent in a home ---

For effective review system:  the Government MUST look at defamation laws.

What consumers want:

1. Peer discussion; to meet privately with 1-2 people who had experience with a facility.

2. Stories override rating systems. If someone tells you a story, it often trumps the raw statistics and will sway you.

3. Accountability and reliable reviews

4. Reviews are not a substitute for an effective complaints system and need to be kept separate.

5. Advice to consumers:    Never rely on one source.

Difference in UK

Rating is linked to Pricing:  ie if you have 4+ star rating you can charge above $230 but if you have 3 stars you can charge a max of $230,  etc…


Digital Inclusion reports in Australia 

UK equivalent (OFCOM 2013: 

Wisdom of crowds – Surowiecki, 2004

Motivation of Reviewers – Sundaram et al 1998

Ubel 2001

Recognition of Reviewers

CMA report 2016 (Competition and Marketing Authority )

By Bernard Borg-Caruana