The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is the peak membership body and advocate for the Australian healthcare system. The organisation started more than 60 years ago and aims to represent public healthcare and hospitals all across the country. They call themselves the voice in public healthcare and work toward affordable and equitable health care for all Australians.
“We are a membership organisation and so one of the things we try to do is ensure good information sharing between not only our own members but also more broadly across the health and hospital system,” says Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive Officer at AHHA. “We actively partner with other bodies in the health sector and aim to build connections between them and us.”
Among their members you can find large organisations like Queensland Health, hospitals and healthcare providers, universities, and even individuals and students. Their network allows them to connect colleagues, facilitate participation in important discussions and help with developing policies—all part of their strategy which allows them to work with public hospitals and public healthcare systems to promote access and affordability.
In a time when government budgets are under pressure, the AHHA is focusing on where savings can be found in the health system. One of the ways in which they do this is by offering and promoting a range of leading healthcare training programs, such as their partnership with the Leading Edge group to deliver a Lean Training in Healthcare Program. Modelled after similar programs offered in the United Kingdom and Canada, it is specifically designed to find inefficiencies in the healthcare system and address them through continuous quality improvement solutions.
“When someone undertakes the Lean Program, [generally they come] with a project they have identified in their own hospital that they see in need of quality improvement,” says Verhoeven. “They use that project as a basis for their training.”
The program is one of many steps the AHHA is taking to ensure their goal.
“We have a number of events in our calendar this year which focus on opportunities for finding savings in the healthcare system and part of that represents our commitment to driving efficiency gains in the health system,” says Verhoeven.
The association reaches out to their members and interested parties through websites, social media and traditional media. But perhaps, one of the most useful venues to provide evidence-based information is through their peer-reviewed journal The Australian Health Review.
“That journal is open for academics to submit articles based on health policy research,” Verhoeven says. “High quality research is an important component underpinning our policy work.”
Some of the AHHA’s more unique contributions to the healthcare sector come from two very different branches of the AHHA. The Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research is a partnership with seven universities across Australia. They deliver a wide range of information including evidence briefs and issues briefs to make sure there is a good connection between the research available and those that could use that information to develop policy for the Government.
“It’s a unique commitment amongst health sector organisations,” Verhoeven admits.
JustHealth Consultants is another part of the AHHA that has been of invaluable help to their members. The consultancy service launched in 2010 and helps their members undertake a range of projects with the network of support they require, whether that be a quality facilitator or a strategic thinker.
The AHHA hopes that these tools will be instrumental in facing the challenges they have ahead of them.
“In a [fiscally] constrained environment such as the one we are confronted with at the moment and in an environment with an aging population and increased burden of disease in regards to chronic disease there is increased pressure on the health system,” Verhoeven says. “Governments around the world are looking at ways to rein that in and ensure that health services are sustainable into the future.”
Alison Verhoeven joined the AHHA in 2013, after a career with a strong focus on the healthcare sector. It is her mission to make sure the AHHA continues to be a valuable tool for their members and for all the country.
“My personal goal is to ensure we provide the best possible service and support to our members in order to allow them to deliver their commitment to Australians which is a high quality, well-functioning healthcare system,” Verhoeven says.