World Health Day has, for many years, demonstrated the importance of international collaboration in addressing global health challenges. Established to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation in 1948, World Health Day helps to highlight an area of public health concern each year on the 7th of April. Sharing information on how different countries tackle problems, such as high blood pressure - the theme this year - is undeniably a progressive development. Healthcare systems around the world are under increasing pressure and I believe that the only way we can face up to these challenges is to share experience, in line with this internationalist approach to problem solving.
To this end, I was involved with organising a conference in October 2012, which brought together 40 senior executives and clinicians, representing some of the world's largest healthcare organisations from 22 countries, to share insights, ideas and outlooks. While each society faced different population dynamics, disease outbreaks, health and welfare challenges, each healthcare leader was open to sharing and learning from parallel experiences. Inspired by the progressive spirit behind the recent World Health Day, we have decided to pool the findings from the conference and share them with the world in Something to Teach, Something to Learn. Delegates identified five major trends reshaping healthcare today.
Firstly, those picking up the bill for healthcare - whether they are governments, public sector bodies or insurers - are becoming more selective and value focused. Re-shaping patient behaviour, with more focus on prevention, is also part of the dynamic. Secondly, providers need to rethink their approach as it is becoming clear that major transformational change may be ahead. There is an imperative to engage patients in new ways so that they become active partners in their care, rather than passive recipients. This factor - the third trend identified by delegates - requires new systems and patient-centric policies. Fourthly, the rise of the 'high-growth health systems', from rapidly developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America, is changing global outlooks. These high growth health systems are innovating fast and lessons can be derived from their experience. Finally, delegates highlighted that sustainable change and better value are increasingly being seen as a direct result of new approaches to integration.
Reflecting on the conference, I was struck by the importance of implementing a strategic vision, drawing on the expertise of the hard working people - the most valuable assets - within health services such as the NHS. In these challenging times it is crucial that organizations make enough time to conceptualise long-term strategic plans, not just short term goals. Organizations must focus on patient value and outcomes: on what patients really need and want. We need new ways of working, and a new dialogue, in which the patient's voice is amplified.
Leaders who face up to this challenge will look beyond process targets. They will allow space for their staff to innovate and experiment in order to create new models of care. They will empower their teams, collaborate and share information. Recognizing that we all have something to teach and something to learn - in line with the spirit of World Health Day - will be crucial for success in the changing dynamics of the new healthcare paradigm.
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