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Ensuring health equality for all

Way back in 1988 I worked in a homeless shelter in Atlanta, USA. I was young, naive and exploring the world. Staying with family living in Georgia, I was not allowed to work legally so I volunteered at a refuge for homeless women and children. It is an understatement to describe this experience as an eye-opening, ideal-shattering experience.

In the 4 months I worked at the shelter I met dozens of women and children who were homeless. Their stories were as varied as they were sad but so many related to a health crisis. Two women I met there came straight from hospital with their newborn babies. Imagine being a first time mother with a newborn baby and having no home, no money for food and only temporary shelter. There was only one hospital in Atlanta at that time which would treat uninsured patients, the other facilities would literally leave seriously ill people on the doorstep.

To this day I remember how shocked I was when I first heard the Social Worker say:

“In America, we are all one serious illness away from homelessness”.

During this time I learnt that medicine was only for the employed/insured/wealthy and having a chronic condition could be a fast-track to homelessness.  Medical bills are still the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. This work experience was heart wrenching as an adolescent and the lessons I learnt at that time shaped my adult life and have fuelled my constant commitment to equal access to quality healthcare and education.

Those who know me may have heard one of my mantras I use when teaching practice staff about Medicare. I say “Yes I know Medicare can be frustrating to deal with but I am still very grateful for Medicare”. For the last 30 years I have worked in our wonderful Australian healthcare system. I have seen a lot of change over that time and feel privileged every day to work with the most amazing, caring health professionals.

America of course has undergone significant primary care redesign over recent years and it is important we learn from the US Patient-Centered Medical Home model as well as the experiences of other countries in this endeavour. As I head back to the United States on my own ‘person-centred’ study tour I will be looking for answers to some pretty big questions:

  1. How do overseas lessons apply to Australia?
  2. How do ‘patient portals’ ie patients having access to their own medical records, affect healthcare delivery?
  3. How do we ensure we can maintain high quality, affordable healthcare for all Australians?
  4. How can we improve support for our Australian healthcare providers?

Over the next 3 weeks I will be visiting various US states and I will report on interesting & innovative health care services.
Join me online via this blogFacebookTwitter or Linked In.

With best wishes, Katrina Otto, Managing Director & Owner, Train IT Medical Pty Ltd



Disclaimer: Please note I am an independent trainer and Practice Management Consultant. While I am an approved trainer for the Dept of Health, Australian Digital Health Agency, Primary Health Networks, AHPRA, AAPM, APNA, ACCRM, AHPA, MedicalDirector, Best Practice Software, Avant Mutual Group, MDA National  etc and regularly present education sessions on behalf of organisations, the feedback and opinions expressed in these blogs are my own. Katrina Otto




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