Swinburne’s Professor Janet Hiller calls for change in health care focus

Thursday 29 May 2014

A low angle photograph of Swinburne University of Technology signage on the Advanced Technologies Centre building in Hawthorn.

Australia needs to shift the focus of debate on its health care system amid uncertainty over government funding, a rise in some healthcare costs, an ageing population and health and medical workforce, and the evolution of new technology, according to Janet Hiller, the inaugural Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne University of Technology.

She sees ''enormous uncertainty'' in public discussion about health care and a pressing need to re-engineer the health system to meet emerging challenges.

Professor Hiller recently took up her post at Swinburne after having worked at Australian Catholic University as Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Prior to that role, she spent 23 years at the University of Adelaide engaged in health technology assessment and health services research broadly focusing on perinatal care, breast cancer screening and antenatal screening.

Professor Hiller holds national policy roles with the Australian government on health technology assessment, particularly around reimbursement decisions for Medicare, and quality and sustainability of the health care system.

''The challenges we face mean there has to be a shift, we have to broaden the scope of what we mean by the health care system,'' she said.

''You want, where ever possible, to keep people out of the hospital system – the most expensive part of care provision. To do that, you need to strengthen your preventative and primary health care and allied health assistance in areas that don't need high end and often expensive medical expertise." 

Challenges include an ageing population; an ageing workforce in some health sectors; and in some cases an over-supply but badly distributed allocation of health care expertise.

Professor Hiller said the appeal of Swinburne's new structure is that it puts the School of Health in the new Faculty of Health, Arts and Design.

''This is a great opportunity, as it allows for real vertical integration in our teaching and research. Health promotion, for instance, requires social marketing and communication. Understanding health needs requires statisticians.

‘’Managing health systems requires information technology. And we have people with great skills in design and biomedical engineering, the innovation end of health technology. There's very neat vertical integration and exciting opportunities available in such a diverse but synergistic faculty.''

The appointment of Professor Hiller will enable Swinburne’s aspirations to grow in the health sciences.

“Professor Janet Hiller’s role as Dean of the School of Health Science will provide innovative and engaged academic leadership as we look to grow our teaching and research capabilities in the health sciences area,” said Vice-Chancellor, Professor Linda Kristjanson.

Swinburne provides a suite of highly regarded undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology. It also has a long history of provision of education in Public and Environmental Health and Biomedical Sciences. 

“Our relatively new degrees in Health Sciences will be strengthened and expanded to meet the challenges being faced by an ageing population and capitalising on the interdisciplinary opportunities provided by the Faculty structure,” Proffesor Hiller said

“We envisage a move into allied health education in areas aligned with Swinburne’s strengths.”