In the lead up to the Hospital Association of South Africa (HASA) 2018 Conference taking place at The Forum, The Campus in Bryanston, Johannesburg from 1-3 October, Chair of HASA, Melanie Da Costa, talks about the conference’s role in stimulating debate about ways to strengthen the healthcare system and helping the country meet its goals of improved healthcare provision.

Please tell us about the theme of this year’s HASA Conference: “Thinking Forward. Forward Thinking. Collaborate. Enhance. Evolve.”

A certain mindset will be crucial for us to create solutions to the many challenges facing healthcare. We will need to be imaginative and future-oriented for one. Then we will need to be prepared to work together, to improve what we have, and to evolve meaningful interventions.

The future of healthcare is about more integration of care delivery i.e. multi-disciplinary teams and continuity of care. Senior Executive, Health & Education, at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), David Ferreira, will speak directly to some aspects of this when he addresses the topic: ‘The evolution of hospital companies into integrated healthcare service providers’. This theme will be supplemented by discussions of other innovations seen in Africa and other parts of the world on day three of the conference.

The world around us is continuously transformed by the power of digital platforms and digitisation and we will dedicate some time at the conference to exploring what this might mean for healthcare access and healthcare delivery.

The HASA Conference has attracted a number of top drawer speakers in the past. This year you have attracted Dr Peter Davis from the UK who was ex-Deputy Commissioner for their equivalent of the Competition Commission and Professor Sharon Fonn who sat on the panel at the Healthcare Market Inquiry. What is the thinking behind their inclusion in the programme?

After a process of over four years, the Healthcare Market Inquiry (HMI) by the Competition Commission recently published a provisional report. Participants have until 7 September to make comments. Due to the significance of this process and the provisional recommendations, HASA has dedicated a significant portion of its 2018 conference to engage on the process, provisional recommendations and potential rebuttals.

HASA has therefore invited Professor Sharon Fonn, a member of the HMI Panel, chaired by ex-Supreme Court Judge Ngcobo, to present on the HMI process and provisional recommendations. The Ex-Deputy Competition Commissioner in the UK, Dr Peter Davis, will speak to such processes in the UK and his view on the SA HMI. This will be followed by Co-founder of Insight Actuaries, Barry Childs, Managing Director of Econex and Extraordinary Professor at Stellenbosch University, Prof Nicola Theron,  and Co-founder and Director at Nortons Inc, Anthony Norton – all experts in aspects of the ground covered by the HMI.

How will the conference tackle National Health Insurance (NHI)?

The HASA Conference agenda has two speakers covering NHI because what we have seen in terms of detail from the legislation so far is limited. The NHI Bill gives power to the establishment of the fund but the detail will follow in the future. Health Policy Actuary at Discovery Health and Past President of the Actuarial Society of South Africa, Professor Roseanne Murphy Harris, will join us to expand on the interpretation of the NHI Bill and will speak to various potential next steps of the NHI, while CEO and Partner at PPO Serve, Dr Brian Ruff, will share his thoughts on the current public tenders out for the purchasing of healthcare services for vulnerable groups.

The last day of conference seems to be devoted to digital innovation in healthcare. What role do you think digital health will play in healthcare reform in South Africa and in fostering collaboration in healthcare evolution? 

The digital revolution is changing what is possible in healthcare. Low cost, fast mobile connectivity and smart devices redefine how consumers manage their health and engage with care systems. Digitisation will provide objective data to both doctors and patients with shared decision-making. Big Data and analytics offer predictability and precision in diagnosis and treatment, and facilitating co-ordination of care. Exponential technologies are proving to be disruptors in medicine and healthcare delivery. Cardiologist and Past President of the SA Heart Association, Dr David Jankelow, has been invited to describe how innovation is an enabler of more efficient and quality care.

We have a very long way to go as a country in achieving a successful national digital health strategy; but with the right conditions and forward thinking, who knows what is possible?

The HASA 2018 Conference will feature a number of international and local speakers who will debate current issues, including NHI and HMI, and discuss other important healthcare aspects such as digital disruption and leadership with a view to looking to the future.

The world-class conference and exhibition will take place from Monday, 1 October to Wednesday, 3 October 2018 at the The Forum, The Campus in Bryanston, Johannesburg. More information about the event can be found here.

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