Innovation, Employment and Education
Edited by Greg Hearn, Ruth Bridgstock, Ben Goldsmith and Jess Rodgers
Healthcare is a particularly interesting context within which to examine creative engagement in economic activity. It entails the provision of knowledge-and information-intensive goods and services in a complex web of many types of interacting public and private service providers, government and other funders, and various regulatory and supporting mechanisms. Healthcare is one of the largest and most rapidly expanding parts of the Australian economy. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013), Australian expenditure on healthcare was AU$140.2 billion in 2011–2012, that is 9.5 per cent of gross domestic product, up from 8.3 per cent a decade earlier. This expenditure is projected to increase significantly, reflecting pressures from an ageing population, along with increasing demand for high-quality health services, reliable information and access to new technologies (Secretariat Australia 2012; Segal and Bolton 2009). Additional cost pressures have arisen over the first decade of the 2000s as equity has assumed greater prominence in health policy, driven by community expectations that services and health outcomes should be of similar high quality for remote and/or Indigenous Australians to those provided to city dwellers. Additionally, greater attention is being paid to addressing mental health and some lifestyle issues with long-term ill health implications. Caught between these changes and the budget constraints imposed by their major government funders, healthcare providers are under considerable pressure to change while balancing the objectives of cost containment and healthcare quality.
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