NewsHealth economists could improve efficiency in healthcare

Health economists could improve efficiency in healthcare

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Research conducted by Flinders University underscores the pivotal role health economists can play in addressing healthcare challenges, such as emergency department (ED) ramping, leading to enhanced efficiency and outcomes in local hospitals and health networks across Australia.

Professor Jonathan Karnon, hailing from Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health, emphasized the significance of involving health economists directly in decision-making processes. Karnon asserted that having health economists situated at hospital sites rather than in detached academic settings facilitates their active participation, resulting in improved health outcomes.

Governments grapple with the task of delivering sustainable health systems, and Karnon highlighted the historical challenges in providing timely and relevant information to decision-makers due to the complexity of hospitals. Economic evaluation, Karnon explained, aims to offer decision-makers insights into the comparative costs and benefits of various spending options.

Flinders University’s health economists, led by Professor Karnon, immersed themselves in the South Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) for a two-year period. The research revealed that embedding academic health economists into hospitals, working collaboratively with clinicians to analyze and interpret data, could significantly enhance budgetary decisions. In Australia, local health services manage public hospital services for specific geographical areas with allocated budgets.

During their tenure in SALHN, health economists conducted local-level economic evaluations, leveraging health systems data, published information, and engagement with local clinicians. This approach enabled the evaluation of interventions to minimize complications during hospital admissions and assessed new programs addressing critical issues such as ED ramping in South Australia.

The research findings lay the groundwork for promoting a sustainable integration of health economics in local health services across Australia. Professor Karnon and his team are actively developing training programs and resources to encourage the adoption of economic evaluation in hospitals and local health services. Karnon expressed the desire to establish education and economist-in-residence programs, fostering collaboration between researchers and health services to ensure evidence-based decision-making for the benefit of patients.

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