Australia’s future healthcare system must be consumer centric ASMI 2013 Conference

15 November 2013

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 Friday 15 November 2013 -The importance of industry, policymakers and regulators putting the consumer front and centre of discussions on Australia's future health system was a key theme of the 2013 Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) Conference in Sydney yesterday.

"This conference has drawn an array of local and international speakers to share insights on the modern-day health consumer in the context of self care, healthcare shopping habits, complementary medicines, regulatory reform and social media.

"Importantly, it has highlighted some of the forces that are driving quite dramatic changes to the way that the consumer healthcare industry does business and interacts with consumers," said ASMI Executive DirectorDr Deon Schoombie. 

Dr Schoombie also spoke of the new research partnership with Macquarie University which is helping ASMI to deepen its understanding of consumer behaviour in self care and determine the economic value of self care in contributing to a sustainable healthcare system in the future.

In presenting early findings from this research,Professor Scott Koslowfrom Macquarie University's Faculty of Business and Economics, said that rather than forcing behavioural change, the future healthcare system should be built around consumer's current behaviour.

Alluding to the way in which non-prescription medicines are regulated in the future, Professor Koslow said: "Consumers apply their own natural logic when they choose and use non-prescription healthcare products, and given that very distinct consumer segments exist in the consumer healthcare landscape a one-size-fits-all approach isn't going to work."

Eye-tracking technology presented by Professor Koslow showed that when selecting non-prescription healthcare products, most consumers focus on the brand, rather than all the technical and scientific information on the label.

The theme of a sustainable healthcare future continued withNathan Taylor,Chief Economist from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). Mr Taylor explained that healthcare will be the greatest source of fiscal pressure over the next four decades, and that the source of this pressure will be utilisation rather than demographic changes such as the ageing of the population.

Leigh Shaw, Head of Shopper Practice at Neilsen, provided an overview of the changing behaviour of shoppers in Australia, highlighting how the lines between pharmacy and grocery have blurred. Ms Shaw also explained that value still rules for health consumers, but what it means is changing. Quality and a range of products - and not just low prices - are more important than ever.

In the area of complementary medicines, Consultant and Senior Fellow at the Samueli InstituteMichael Smithfocussed on the need to support a regulatory framework that protects the consumer as its primary goal without overburdening the industry given the 'lower risk' profile of complementary medicines.

A livelypanel debatefollowed on the role of complementary medicines in healthcare, key issues to address and how to move the industry forward, with contributions from experts in the field.

There was firm agreement that there needs to be a shift towards preventative health in Australia and that complementary medicines have a key role in helping consumers meet their health goals, particularly with rapidly increasing healthcare costs.

The panel agreed that an important task ahead is to ensure that claims are accurately supported by good evidence - whether scientific or traditional. At the same time, more work is needed to further build on healthcare professionals' knowledge on the existing and growing evidence-base for complementary medicines.

International 'switch' expertNatalie Gauldpresented on the significant reclassification differences that have emerged in recent years as Australia and New Zealand attempt to harmonise scheduling in the lead up to ANZTPA. Ms Gauld also described switch innovations that have taken place in major markets over recent years. 

On the regulatory front,Dr John Skerritt, National Manager of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), provided a status update on the number of reforms that currently impact the industry.

Dr Skerritt identified the labeling and packaging review as a priority ahead of the establishment of ANZTPA in mid-2016, stressing the need to stage the labelling implementation so that only one set of label changes are needed to meet the joint agency requirements.

In the closing session, digital strategistJye Smith, Vice President - Digital, Asia Pacific for Weber Shandwick, emphasised the power of social media in encouraging a more empowered and informed health consumer.

Mr Smith also congratulated ASMI for its leadership in the area, acknowledging today's launch of ASMI's Industry Social Media Guidelines which are a first for the consumer healthcare industry. The new guidelines are available at www.asmi.com.au.

-ENDS-

 

For more information or to arrange a media interview with the conference speakers, please contact: Michelle Sollitt-Davis

PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)

M:0422 084 951 E: michelle@asmi.com.au