While it could be easy to assume people throughout Australia and New Zealand all enjoy ready access to care, reality paints a different picture. It’s true that we have robust, well-funded health systems. However, issues like geographic distance and socioeconomic disparity have made equitable healthcare access difficult to achieve. For people living in rural and remote locations, for example, delivering care can be costly and logistically challenging, and these communities have long experienced poorer health outcomes than their urban counterparts.
COVID-19 has underscored pre-existing challenges and intensified them by burdening healthcare resources, leaving fewer for other health matters. In Australia, for example, staff and ambulance shortages and the backlog of elective surgeries has led to peak medical bodies expressing concerns that lives are being put at risk . Between October and December 2021, the median waiting time for non-urgent surgery in New South Wales was 282 days, and 10 per cent of patients had to wait more than 420 days for non-urgent surgery .
On the upside, the pandemic has highlighted the power of technology to transform service delivery, presenting a compelling opportunity to improve healthcare access throughout Australia.