Did you watch the Four Corners episode Wasted on waste in health care last night? It is highly recommended viewing and made a number of interesting points:
- That our Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) pays an amount to a health care provider every time they provide a test or treatment. This provides a perverse incentive for medical practitioners to offer more tests and treatments. And more does not always equal better.
- That up until the last five years, procedures were not subjected to an evidence base test before being added to the MBS. Which means there are several decades worth of procedures on the MBS that do not pass the evidence base test.
- That there is no connection easily made between the number of treatments done and the health outcomes they are achieving for us. So while data is collected from MBS, from our hospitals and health services, from our diagnostic services, this data is collected in silos and cannot easily be translated into a coherent picture of what works, and what doesn’t
- That health consumers are sometimes asking for diagnostic procedures and treatments on the understanding that this will ensure they a) reduce their worries and concerns and b) they will get better.
- That it takes time in a clinical consultation to explain why tests and treatments may not actually achieve the outcome the consumer is seeking, and spending more time discussing and explaining treatments and options with consumers is not financially rewarded.
At one point consumers are encouraged to ask questions in order to feel sure that the treatment they are having will a) be useful and b) won’t potentially harm them and c) won’t waste our precious resources. A key question is “what’s the evidence for that?”
The imagery throughout the episode of the journey we all face through the different systems once a test is ordered highlights how important it is for us to get on the train knowing exactly where we may end up.
If you have a body and have ever been to a GP, then this story affects you, and you can be part of the change. The current MBS reform has a consumer survey open until 9th November 2015 which aims to help update the MBS to reduce waste and unnecessary treatments. Jump on board now to have your say – you have until 9th November 2015.
This blog was written by Pip Brennan, Executive Director of the Health Consumers’ Council.