Disruption in healthcare advocacy – fixing an ailing system

Tony McGinn knows how to get things done.

Through his company, MCM Entertainment, he has been a driving force behind media content production and syndication in the Australian music industry for several decades. His company created ways to create and transport several kilograms of pre-recorded large audio tape reels via courier to hundreds of radio stations across the country so that shows like Take 40 Australia could be aired at the same time each week. Then they had to collect the tapes and bring them back to start the whole process again for the next week. Later, the tapes were replaced by CDs and, eventually, by digital platforms.

 Tony McGinn, Principal - The McGinn Partnership

Tony McGinn, Principal - The McGinn Partnership

As the technologies evolved and music trends changed, McGill and MCM kept adapting and reinventing themselves to remain relevant and successful. However, when McGill’s young son was diagnosed with leukaemia in the late 90’s, he faced his biggest challenge yet. During his podcast interview on The Mentor List, he reflected,

“Being a father and a successful businessman you hold that belief that you can always fix things. You are fixing problems on a daily basis and you start to build a thick skin, but suddenly you are faced with a problem you cannot fix.”

McGill stepped aside from all his business activity to focus all his attention on his son and his family. He joined the support group KOALA (Kids Oncology and Leukemia Action group) – which later became part of the Children’s Cancer Foundation. During this time, he noticed that the organisational practices within the health system had problems.

“I realised as a business man that the system was not only imperfect but in fact flawed in many ways. I started to ask questions., triggered further by my meeting of families who weren’t as fortunate as us. We met many families and many children who did not make it … The imperfection in the system drove me to get involved to see how I could improve it”

McGinn didn’t just improve it, he went on to become the president of KOALA and helped to turn it from a support group into a powerful advocacy group. He then gathered many friends who were prominent in the Australian entertainment industry and together they created the ‘Million Dollar Lunch’. After 12 such lunches, they had raised over $16 million for the Children’s Cancer Foundation. As McGill said, that was “No mean feat”.

Critical needs

When you think about it, our healthcare system is like one giant parent company comprising hundreds of smaller organisations (public and private) - and some of these still largely operate in silos. Our State and Federal Governments do a great job keeping everything working overall, but they can’t do everything, especially with competing budget demands. What is desperately needed at every level is more people like McGill willing to step up and create solutions.

Some of the areas ready for, or going through, major disruption at the moment include:

  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This is the biggest change to the healthcare system since the introduction of Medicare in the 1970’s. It is gradually bringing all the different local, state, and federal disability services and funding under the one national body.

  • The private health insurance system.

  • The Medicare funding system.

  • The sharing of digital health data.

  • Medical research funding and organisational structures.

  • The role of consumers in planning and organising healthcare resources.

Improving the health of healthcare

Nicola Forrest is another notable Australian who, along with her husband Andrew, has been stepping in to do something about an unmet need within the system. She noticed that great research has difficulty getting funding with the current models.

As Forrest noted in her interview with Nicole Richards at Philanthropy Australia, ‘Helping others is the most satisfying thing you can do in life’: Nicola Forrest

“One of the things that was a lightbulb moment for me with our Forrest Research Foundation was understanding that in order for researchers to get funding, they’ve got to be so specific. They have to head down a track that, even if they start to discover something over here [gestures], their funding doesn’t allow them to explore it until they finish the other research … there’s amazing research being done around the world but guess what, no one shares their data. When you think about the age of intelligence that we live in and how we might use that multiplier effect to change things quicker, that’s what drives some of the things that seem so ambitious and so outrageous but actually, it’s just about challenging the norm.”

Just like in many businesses, changes in technology and social values mean that many healthcare systems and practices no longer meet the needs of consumers. In this case, ‘consumers’ includes, not just patients, but also families, carers, healthcare workers and anyone else that comes into contact with the system at some point. In other words – all of us.

But, also, just like in business, we don’t have to accept the way things are. Things can always be done better. That’s where you may be able to step in and help. If you are already used to managing change and disruption or if you are passionate about helping people in need, you might consider bringing those skills into advocacy or philanthropic work.

Anyone can do it whether you are in business or not. The main criteria are that you see a need for change somewhere in the system and you want to help do something about it. As Forrest says:

“(Philanthropy is) a good term, it’s a good definition. It just sometimes seems exclusive, when in fact anyone can be a philanthropist in whatever way is accessible to them – time, talent or treasure.”

Some of the many ways you can help improve our healthcare system include:

  • Joining the Consumer’s Health Forum of Australia  – Australia’s leading advocate on consumer healthcare issues.

  • Volunteering your time for hospital committees, government focus groups and advisory bodies.

  • Bringing people and organisations together. Drawing on the power of your networks or creating new ones filled with the right people.

  • Starting an awareness campaign through platforms such as Get Up

  • Putting your money where your mouth is and funding health-related initiatives and research through Philanthropy Australia.

Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it is struggling and it needs your help to revive it. Your contribution could make a difference in the lives of many.

(You may also like the article Krystian Seibert wrote for Generosity, Why should philanthropy fund advocacy?)

Call to action…

After building and leading his businesses in media, marketing services and technology across Australia, Europe and Asia over 33 years, and the sale of those businesses in 2016, Tony McGinn now has two passionate business focuses, The McGinn Partnership and The Executive Connection. Through these organisations, he is reaching out to help many SME’s expand their capabilities.

If you’d like to hear more of McGinn’s extraordinary story and discover how Coca-Cola, World War ll, Paul McCartney and the AFL are all connected to it, tune in to his podcast interview on The Mentor List. You won’t want to miss it.

Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au

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