The RegHealth program was established in 2004 to contribute to Australian and international efforts to evaluate promising forms of regulatory governance that ensure that people receive good quality and safe health services.
RegHealth has developed a framework of regulatory theory and evidence-based policy in different sectors of the economy by studying the behaviour of regulatory institutions. The international regulatory expertise within RegHealth thus offers productive opportunities for two-way knowledge transfers between health and other sectors and between health care systems in Australia and overseas.
The governance of health care systems around the world is in the process of being overhauled as governments seek ways to become better ‘stewards’ of the health of their populations and of the health care services provided by health care professionals and organisations.
‘Regulation’ refers to a continuum of approaches from persuasion upwards to ‘command and control’: although the health sector traditionally has relied upon ‘softer’ forms of professional self-regulation. Health care is increasingly regulated, however, given its large and diverse public sector and substantial private sector. There is also growing concern about health safety in Australia as in other OECD countries; for example, about 2% of patients experience a serious ‘medical error’ in hospital. Thus the volume and variety of regulatory efforts to improve performance have increased dramatically recently in response to calls for greater accountability. The health field in Australia, with its proliferation of regulatory bodies and mechanisms, offers rich scope for innovative research on the nature and impact of regulatory strategies. Does regulation result in better and safer health care? What regulatory mechanisms work well, in what combination, and is regulation a cost-effective way to improve performance? These are the sorts of questions that the research at RegHealth seeks to answer.