Improving the delivery of healthcare

With the state of healthcare delivery in Australia primed for reform, the support of generous philanthropy has helped the University of Wollongong to initiate a conversation around patient-focused care.



Story By

Sarah Vickery

With the state of healthcare delivery in Australia primed for reform, the support of generous philanthropy has helped the University of Wollongong to initiate a conversation around patient-focused care.

In September 2019, the University hosted the inaugural UOW Health Symposium at its Innovation Campus, highlighting a commitment to innovation in health delivery and improved community healthcare outcomes.

Heralding the development of UOW’s person-centred Health and Wellbeing precinct at the Innovation Campus, the event brought together the collective expertise and experience of healthcare practitioners from across the public and private health sector, community health representatives, academics and students.

The Symposium was sponsored by the McKinnon Walker Trust, a $1.3 million gift donated by former UOW Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Ken McKinnon AO and UOW alumna Suzanne Walker. Their vision was to help foster innovative programs, activities and ideas at UOW over successive years.

Under an overarching, person-centred healthcare theme, key topics included: closing the healthcare gap for groups at higher risk, Indigenous health, the economics of ageing, building a person-centred health service and associated best practices, Australian health care reform, technology and big data to improve patient outcomes, and personalised medicine.

A joint initiative by UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities), Professor Alison Jones, and UOW Executive Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty, Professor Glenn Salkeld, the Symposium was designed to capture insights from health leaders on the existing challenges and promote ideas on best practice in putting the patient’s needs first.

“By bringing together innovative thinkers we aim to create an environment for debate on delivering the best person-centred care models of the future,” Professor Jones said.

“This is just the beginning. We’ve started the conversation now and we look forward to continuing to consult with health professionals and patients alike.

“We hope to set new standards for quality of living and opportunity for learning as we work to implement change that matters at our Health and Wellbeing precinct,” she affirmed.

The Symposium also featured special guest and UOW Honorary Doctor, Ita Buttrose AC OBE, who gave the McKinnon Walker keynote address. As an ambassador for Dementia Australia, she shared her own very personal experience in dealing with aged care and dementia, and acknowledged the need for significant reform in aged-care living.

Following several presentations and panel discussions throughout the day, the participants unanimously agreed on the importance of consulting directly with diverse groups of people, who use different aspects of the healthcare system, before implementing change.

Health Consumers NSW Executive Director, Dr Anthony Brown, is a passionate advocate for patient involvement in healthcare delivery. He highlighted the need to include those who are directly affected in the decision-making.

“The insights that doctors and nurses bring are really valuable, but the more we involve patients in the design of services the more we can help people in their healing,” Dr Brown said.

UOW will continue the conversations with patients and health sector professionals to work towards delivering an effective person-centred Health and Wellbeing precinct, while supporting community-led discussions at future Health and Wellbeing Symposiums.

About UOW’s Health and Wellbeing precinct

UOW’s state-of-the-art Health and Wellbeing Precinct, currently under development, will be located at the Innovation Campus and provide patient-centred, multidisciplinary health facilities to improve the health outcomes for people in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

The hub of the precinct will be a $44 million community health clinic – intoHealth. An Australian-first, this University-led centre of excellence in integrated healthcare will address preventative health issues and maintaining overall physical and mental wellbeing.

The centre will provide a one-stop shop model of care, focussed on the needs of the patient and their family. A strong teaching component will be partnered by research dedicated to transforming practice, patient experience and outcomes.

The integrated health facility will deliver rehabilitation, disability and aged-care services, and mental health services in the one precinct. It will bring together a range of health professionals including doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists, dietitians, dentists, pharmacists, academics and pathologists.

The precinct will also include an innovative and integrated aged care and senior living village. In partnership with an aged living provider, this initiative will see aged-care services link research, teaching and learning on a daily basis.

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