11 May 2023

Health Leaders Summit roundup

Interoperability KnowCents Political Technology Virtual/Remote Care

One and a half days seemed like too short a time to delve into the many issues discussed at last week’s Wild Health Australian Health Leaders summit in Canberra. 

From a patient-led healthcare system, to the pivotal role of interoperability, one message was loud and clear – no meaningful reform will happen without a more connected healthcare system. 

It all began with a pre-summit workshop. Heathcare movers and shakers fronted up a day early to create a roadmap of what reform could look like. 

First was a lunch and expert panel featuring Hans Erik Henriksen, CEO of Epital Health in Denmark. Mr Henriksen revealed the fundamentals of Denmark’s highly connected health care model and kicked off a spirited Q&A session. 

Rebbeck Consulting then led a workshop in which teams identified possible reform activities across six domains. 

Joint regional governance underpinned by strategic need assessment was a central concept. The barriers and bridges to data sharing were also tackled, as were workforce planning, empowering consumers, progressive funding models and a focus on equity. 

Workshop outcomes are being collated and will be shared through the Wild Health network. 

The full-day summit included more than 50 thought leaders including healthcare executives, policy makers, leading researchers and advocates for consumers and industry associations. In addition to Wild Health’s live blog on the day, here’s snapshot of some key conversations. 


Panellists agreed that the health system should be built around a “patient journey” and centred around the needs of the community.

Professor Zoe Wainer is deputy secretary Public Health in the Victorian Department of Health.  

“We end up reinventing the silos when we talk about the system before we talk about the patient,” she said. 

Clare Mullen, deputy director of the Health Consumers’ Council of Western Australia, commented that it was somewhat ironic to be speaking about a patient-centred healthcare system, with so few consumer representatives in the room. She challenged the audience to invite their consumers to the next summit.  

Ms Mullen said that there needs to be “deliberate structures that make it possible for grassroot community input”, and greater community accountability. There is also often comprehensive consultation on reports that end up “sitting on a shelf”, she added.  

Ray Messom, CEO of WentWest (Western Sydney PHN), said the consumer voice could be a lever to alternative models of healthcare. 

“We could balance the power and political imperative, and not have to build yet another big hospital,” he said. 


While there is a shortage of GPs in rural areas, panellists said that doctors weren’t working together as much as they could or wanted to. 

They said the important question to answer was how the health system could work differently within current systems and with more community collaboration. 

Ben Chiarella, Director of Clinical Innovation at Ramsay Connect, emphasised the role of virtual care in “providing solutions”, rather than replacing doctors in rural areas.

He also said the “health system has missed the point”, and that more money should be spent engaging with community groups in remote areas.


The summit showed that digital health leaders were optimistic about interoperability’s future, despite Australia lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to implementing standards.

David Rowlands, managing director of Digital Health Leadership Australasia, said he was “more optimistic than I have been in at least 15 years now”, speaking to increased interest from the Department of Health and Aged Care.

Grahame Grieve, the creator of FHIR interoperability standards, described Australia’s digital ecosystem as “the opposite of world class”. 

He attributed the slow uptake to an issue of “will and commitment to building something we can all benefit from”, rather than problems with technology.

Tim Blake of Semantic Consulting said healthcare leaders “shouldn’t just be pointing fingers” at the federal government.

“One of the reasons we don’t ask [interoperability’s inclusion in procurement documents] is because we don’t understand it,” Mr Blake said, after a show of hands revealed very few Summit attendees understood interoperability enough to ask for its inclusion. 


Disjointed funding models within a federated system was repeatedly identified as one roadblock to a seamless healthcare system. 

Kylie Woolcock, CEO of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, said that an outcomes framework would allow for a nationally consistent funding approach and ensure that “we’re all working to the same goal”. 

Additionally, Tracey Johnson, CEO Inala Primary Care, said a needs-based approach would help mitigate out-of-pocket expenses. She spoke to the importance of using datasets to identify “priority populations” so that funds were proportionately allocated.

Mr Messom also spoke about the regional commissioning model.

“If I was the health minister, I would invest in and support regional governance around a regional system of care,” he said. 

“I would align all of those providers to a shared purpose and vision so that it is not dependent on one organisation.” 


Attendees mixed and mingled at drinks on the final evening. We captured some of their final thoughts in a short Wild Health podcast before they headed home from the nation’s capital. 


Updated 12 May 2023 – duplicate image swapped for an alternate image.