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AMA adapting and preparing for important year in health policy

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The start of a new year brings the breathing space to consider the year ahead after the pre-holiday rush, Christmas festivities and time away from the office. The coming year presents many opportunities to refresh the AMA’s activities, build on work already underway and identify priority areas for attention.

As President Dr Steve Hambleton outlined in the last issue of Australian Medicine (16 December 2013), the Federal Council has approved substantial changes to the governance structure of the AMA which, if adopted by members at the Annual General Meeting in May this year, will provide a platform for a more agile organisation in the future. By creating a governance board of directors, the Federal Council will be freed to focus on the breadth of policy issues that affect health care in Australia.

These governance changes provide the opportunity for a more flexible structure for Federal Council deliberations, with the possibility of using small working groups and task forces to develop contributions to health policy debates, drawing on the expertise of specific members when we need to.

The AMA secretariat is starting the year with a day-long examination of major health policy issues, and the identification of emerging areas for attention by the next President and Federal Council, who will take office at the National Conference in May. The AMA should set the direction of the conversation in many areas of health care that affect doctors and their patients. Time spent analysing priorities and developing strategies is time well-spent.

The year has started with a heated debate about patient co-payments following a proposal for a compulsory contribution of $6 per visit. The quality of commentary has been variable, but what it has shown is the very high level of interest in constraining expenditure in our health system. Patient co-contribution is not the simple solution some have made it out to be. As always with health policy, the issues are more nuanced and deserve a more considered analysis. Health financing has always been a priority area for AMA policy consideration, and 2014 is shaping up as the year in which the AMA needs to tease out policies which will meet the long term interests of the profession and its patients.

Also high on the priority list are the many public health issues that affect health system costs and individual wellbeing. Public health policy is a growing portfolio within the AMA, covering topics as diverse as obesity, alcohol advertising, immunisation, air quality, and the sexualisation of children.

Late in 2013 the AMA leadership – State and Territory AMA Presidents and the Executive Council – spent time developing a roadmap for the strategic direction of the AMA, and this will inform many of our member-directed activities in 2014. It is some time since the AMA asked its members what they look for from the peak advocacy organisation for doctors, and so a member survey is on the agenda for 2014.

Doctors can be overwhelmed with communications. Some of it you no doubt find very useful, other communications less so. A key project for early 2014 is the launch of a doctor-focused portal which will be the repository of tools and information that will be of value in day-to-day practice. Look out for the launch – and let us know whether it meets your needs, and what additional tools or information will improve the site.

Best wishes for a productive and rewarding 2014.

 

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