The last few months have brought welcome positive signs, with Covid-19 case numbers falling across Australia and a number of funding packages announced to aid recovery and boost healthcare capacity. As case numbers fall, the attention is now turning towards future planning.
The pandemic has inevitably changed the way the Australian healthcare system is viewed. In a recent survey of experienced healthcare industry leaders conducted by Australian Healthcare Week, 80% of respondents said they believe that Covid-19 will change the way that healthcare facilities are designed and delivered in the future.
Meanwhile, elective surgery is back in the headlines; although surgery is taking place without restrictions, catching up on the backlog could take some time. Funding alone will not solve the issues health providers are facing. What is also causing concern is the ‘hidden backlog’ of deferred referrals, as waiting times for getting an appointment with a consultant have also become longer.
This, in turn has led to concern about patient outcomes, in particular for cancer. Despite the majority of cancer related appointments being classed as urgent, there has been a substantial fall in the number of people being screened for, and diagnosed with, various cancers. A recent study found a concerning link between longer waiting times and higher mortality for cancer patients.
The topics covered in this edition offer different perspectives on reducing waiting lists. Using a theatre capable of a higher number of air changes, for example with laminar flow, can reduce the waiting time between procedures and improve effectiveness in existing theatres, while adopting flexible modular healthcare solutions enable specialist capacity to be boosted within a very short timescale.
Mobile clinics and mobile operating theatres can deliver healthcare closer to patients, improving accessibility, increasing uptake of screening programmes and reducing the number of missed appointments. Flexible infrastructure can also provide continuity during refurbishment or upgrading projects or help providers achieve compliance with new regulations.
What is key to designing a resilient healthcare system for the future is also the human aspect. It is important to create healthcare spaces that are convenient and practical for patients, that staff are happy to work in; and that meet the needs of communities. Flexibility in healthcare provision to adapt must be an important cornerstone of such a system.
Product Specialist, Q-bital Healthcare Solutions, Australia
Guest Editor, Healthcare Spaces Q4 Newsletter