Delegates network, share insights and unwind at 34th APHA National Congress

The 34th APHA National Congress, held at The Pullman and Mercure Melbourne Albert Park from 22-24 March, brought together stalwarts of the private health industry, healthcare experts, academics, trade exhibitors and others for the year’s premier networking opportunity. The Congress delivered a thought-provoking and informative look into the issues impacting private hospitals in 2015.

This year, the program focused on international experiences in healthcare, how to break down generational barriers in the workplace, consumer issues, workforce mental health, e-health innovations and much more. In addition to insightful presentations by keynote and plenary speakers, the Congress facilitated debate and discussion through a program of formal and informal networking opportunities and showcased industry innovation in the Trade Exhibition.

Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles opens the Congress on the second day ©APHA

Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles speaks at the opening session on the second day of the Congress ©APHA

One of the highlights of the event was a talk by Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles, who shared his vision of an integrated health system with well-defined roles for both public and private hospitals and the Commonwealth as a steward of the industry.

Sunday set the tone with an optional site visit for delegates. A group of around 20 delegates along with APHA staff visited The Valley Private Hospital, Epworth Camberwell and Victoria Parade Surgery Centre in Melbourne. In the evening, APHA hosted a welcome reception for the Congress guests and participants at The Pullman.

Monday started early with a Breakfast Session by Johnson and Johnson where the Honourable Dr Kay Patterson presented on Productive Ageing, discussing the potential benefits of increased longevity and medical technologies advancements to our community.

The conference started at 9am with an opening address by APHA President and UnitingCare Health CEO Richard Royle, who looked back at 2014 and outlined the challenges and opportunities for the private health industry in 2015. He also introduced Debbie Blakey, the recently appointed CEO of HESTA.

Over the next two days, emcee Andrew Klein kept the audience in good spirits. Health futurist Gihan Perera’s talk on hospitals of the future was entertaining as well as thought-provoking. “Our ability to tackle healthcare challenges will depend upon our ability to tap into the fast, flat and free world,” said Mr Perera.

A stand at the Trade Exhibition at the 34th APHA National Congress ©APHA

One of the stands at the Trade Exhibition at the Congress ©APHA

UnitingCare Health Chief Medical Information Officer Monica Trujillo along with colleague Patricia Liebke gave an insight into the transformation of St Stephen’s Harvey Bay into Australia’s first fully-integrated digital regional hospital. After lunch, Graeme Cowen, director of ‘R U OK?’, spoke about The Elephant in the Boardroom — mental health problems in the healthcare workspace.

In the last session of the day, Dr Leon Clark of Adventist Health, Professor Michael Grigg from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and policy consultant Terry Barnes held a panel discussion on Medical Gaps which emphasised the need for empowering patients. While Professor Grigg said the quantum of a surgeon’s fee is not an indicator of quality, Dr Clarke said the day when people will be able to shop online and compare quotes for medical services was not far away. An entertaining Gala Dinner against the backdrop of a quirky show by mentalist Cath Jamison and soulful singing by Lisa Hunt and her troupe was the perfect wrap for the day.

Soul singer Lisa Hunt kept the audience on their feet at the Gala Dinner ©APHA

Singer Lisa Hunt croons all-time favourite soul numbers at the Gala Dinner ©APHA

The second day saw many speakers emphasise the appropriate use of industry benchmarks to improve quality. Tuesday started with a Breakfast Session by Intelog Healthcare Performance Group on how the bottomline impacts everyone and everyone impacts the bottomline. The conference opened with a much-awaited talk by Department of Health Secretary Martin Bowles, in which he touched upon topics such as ageing, the Health Capability Review, need for clinical training for the workforce and the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Michael Coglin of Healthscope, Andrew Sando of Australian Health Service Alliance and Luke Slawomirski from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care debated whether quality performance could be bought. Mr Slawomirski spoke of the elements healthcare organisations should focus on and the ones they should avoid while driving quality and safety. Next was a session on the importance of proper data collection and interpretation by Dr Chris Farmer of St Andrews Private Brisbane and Professor Dr David Ben-Tovim.

Michael Greco of Patient Opinion and Cathy Jones of Healthscope wrapped up the conference with a session on ‘Using the Patient Voice to Drive Safety and Quality via Social Media’. The duo emphasised the role of social media in getting feedback and patient opinion and said it’s becoming increasingly important for hospitals to use social media in a constructive manner and not feel threatened by it. APHA CEO Michael Roff closed the Congress, making observations about the various sessions and thanking the participants.

APHA was active on Twitter throughout the Congress, posting pictures and updates under #aphacongress. We even held a Twitter contest with gorrillapods as giveaways and managed to convert quite a few of our delegates into Twitter enthusiasts!

Interviews with speakers and resources:

We spoke to some of the speakers on the sidelines of the Congress and posted these video interviews on our Facebook page and Twitter handle. Click here to watch the interviews on the APHA Youtube channel. You can also read the Twitter stream under #aphacongress.

A number of speakers made references to reading material relating to their presentations that the audience may find interesting. Here are some of the reading resources with links:

2015 Intergenerational Report (referred to by Martin Bowles)

Tribal Leadership (book) (recommended by Graeme Cowan)

Back from the Brink: Graeme Cowan (book) (recommended by Graeme Cowan)

Joint Working Party of the Commission and the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (referred to by Luke Swalomirski)

Dear Life: On Caring for the Elderly (recommended by Kay Patterson)

Gihan Perera’s recommendations:

Future Solutions in Australian Healthcare White Paper

Hospital ‘passport’ helps alleviate children’s fears of hospitals

Top Five Digital Trends Fuelling Disruption in Healthcare

Is 2015 the ‘Year of Patient Experience’ for Australian healthcare?

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