Honeysuckle Health buying group given green light by ACCC 

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The ACCC has authorised Honeysuckle Health to establish a health services buying group for other healthcare payers.

Honeysuckle Health CEO Rhod McKensey described the authorisation as an important milestone that will see the business serve healthcare 'payers' in both the private and public sectors.

“We believe that all Australians should have access to innovative and outcome-based care options. The best way to achieve this goal is to ensure we can offer our range of services to healthcare funders who wish to provide access for their members to these services,” said Mr McKensey.

“Through the buying group healthcare funders will be able to share the costs associated with negotiating and administering contracts and more confidently invest in products, services and programs that effectively prevent, manage, and treat disease risk.”

In its determination, the ACCC said the Honeysuckle Health buying group is likely to result in public benefits by providing greater choice for insurers and other healthcare payers, increasing competition between buying groups and giving participants improved access to information that would assist them to develop and offer more competitive insurance products and services.

There are currently a number of health-focused buying groups that exist in Australia, including the Australian Health Service Alliance (AHSA) and the Australian Regional Health Group.

“Value-based care is not new. Many healthcare systems are exploring how to apply it, including  NSW Health,” said Mr McKensey.

“In the healthcare setting there is significant variation in costs, clinical outcomes, patient experience and provider experience with some hospitals and clinicians charging markedly more than their peers. We believe all this information should be readily available to both GPs and consumers and be used to help inform treatment options,” he said.

Mr McKensey said an example is Honeysuckle Health’s Clinical Partners program where the business works closely with participating orthopaedic surgeons to fund a wider range of rehabilitation options for patients after hip and knee surgery.

“This includes in-home rehabilitation, where recommended by their surgeon, and to also give patients certainty that none of the clinicians involved in their care will charge an out-of-pocket cost for the procedure. Participating patient and surgeon feedback from the program has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

Under the final determination, Honeysuckle Health was authorised to form and operate a buying group for five years. The ACCC authorisation includes conditions limiting the size of the buying group. The conditions also apply to the activities of the buying group, for example collectively negotiating and managing contracts with healthcare providers.

Mr McKensey said criticism from the medical profession regarding the establishment of the Honeysuckle Health buying group and its potential influence on clinical autonomy is simply not accurate.

“We have no intention to ever interfere in the clinical autonomy of doctors, rather provide optional tools and services to enhance the care they already provide. Honeysuckle Health is an exciting opportunity for the healthcare system and should be judged on its actions and outcomes, not assumptions,” he said.

“Pleasingly we’ve seen growing support from clinicians who share our belief in the principles underpinning value-based care and recognise that the health system needs to shift its focus from activity to value. We look forward to meeting and working collaboratively with clinicians and sharing updates on our progress in helping improve healthcare outcomes,” he added.