Competition, productivity and the cult of 'more is good' in the Australian health care sector

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Abstract

Economic policy discussions emphasise growth, the maximisation of output, efficiency and the pursuit of rational self-interest. Many policy-makers, bureaucrats and managers in health care have been influenced by economists who believe that competition and the marketplace will provide maximum output and efficiency. Thus, for some, health care involves treating more and more patients for the same money. They argue for strategies such as reducing waste, lowering costs, increasing inpatient throughput and introducing competition between providers, especially hospitals, in order to stimulate productivity to achieve their aim. Yet in health care more is not necessarily good. Embracing the culture of the marketplace in a predominantly publicly funded system runs the risk of failing to distribute health care services equitably, and leads to more inappropriate and unnecessary care. An approach that merely strives to treat more patients and lower costs should be rejected in favour of a health system that values effectiveness, health outcomes, quality and the public good, and is patient-centred not delivery system-centred.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Volume56
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1997

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