Linkmate at the CHF Shifting Gears Summit

Consumer health was injected with a major dose of new ideas, passionate advocacy and emerging leadership as Australasia’s first health consumers conference brought together over 820 delegates from Australia and around the world.

It was empowering to see the conference acknowledge and promote the consumer to become an active participant in the health care system, moving from being the passive recipient of health care to the proactive shaper of healthcare delivery and policy.

The influential role of the consumer is a theme that pervaded the entire conference. The consumer is typically the only individual in a care setting with keen insider experience and understanding about all aspects of their care — a reality that the apprised service providers and organisations are acknowledging and building on.

Numerous presentations and chats at the virtual event generated thought-provoking discourse of topics as diverse as why it is time to redefine health and social care; global trends in safety and quality; future horizons; and ‘Big Ideas’ for change.

Consumers from around Australia submitted their Big Ideas for improving health care via a brief video last year. At the summit, five Big Ideas were presented by health consumers with innovative ideas and practical proposals for how we can improve Australia’s healthcare system. 

Ellen Fanning, a journalist from the ABC’s ‘The Drum’, introduced each of the Big Ideas participants and discussed with them the value of their concepts. The themes covered in the videos include consumer experience, choice in health care, bridging gaps in health services, patient-focused care, community-based innovations and contemporary ideas to address shortcomings in mental healthcare.

We’re honoured to be able to share the story behind Linkmate at the conference and to promote our solution to combating the onset of mental health challenges in its earliest stages. Every single one of the ideas were presented by consumers from a perspective of resilience, learning and creativity:


Azure Rigney

As mother of three children under six, she has brought on-the-ground maternity experience to her role as immediate past President of Maternity Choices Australia. She is a Human Resources graduate.

Azure’s Big Idea: Bundled maternity care funding

Proposal for bundled maternity care funding to enable women to choose their maternity model of care including where they want it. The current fragmented system enables costly over-servicing and leaving one in five new mothers with post-traumatic stress at the same rate the funded veteran community suffers, but with even less accountability and support. Less than 10% of women can access continuity of midwifery care, the safest model of care, physically and emotionally. If women have NDIS-style choice and control of their maternity funding allocation, services would be compelled to adapt to retain their client base using publicly available individual care providers and a wider range of choice.


Sarah Barter

Sarah is a consultant in healthcare improvement and formerly with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation.

Sarah’s Big Idea: Comprehensive community health centres

Comprehensive community health centres with multidisciplinary staff providing holistic care and preventive and wellbeing support for all age groups, based on a similar approach as provided by child and family health clinics and Aboriginal community health services. The centres, with a few located in each LGA, would be nurse-managed, allowing doctors to concentrate on patients with more complex medical issues.


Saran Chamberlain and Caleb Rixon

Both are young stroke survivors, working on the Stroke Foundation Young Stroke Project / Genyus Network collaboration.

Saran’s and Caleb’s Big Idea: Mobilising research through peer-led partnership for stroke survivors

To mobilise peer-led research by recognizing the value of young people with a shared lived-experience of stroke. This effort cultivates a non-biased and authentic view of issues faced by this cohort e.g. physical and psychological challenges, as well as loneliness and isolation, being unseen and unheard. The collaboration showcases how peer-led research engagement creates both a greater understanding of the experiences faced by people with a shared lived-experience whilst concurrently mobilizing peer-led community networks.


Dr Maria Alejandra Piñero de Plaza, Penelope McMillan and Ricky Buchanan

Maria, who has an Energy Limiting Chronic Illness (ELCI), is a consumer health advocate who has transitioned into employment in health research at Flinders University. Penelope McMillan, who has multiple ELCI and spends most of her time in bed, is a health consumer advocate in ageing, carers, disability, chronic illness and particularly ME/CFS. Ricky Buchanan, who has multiple ELCI and is bedridden, is a consumer advocate in health, including ME/CFS; disability; and LGBTQI+.

Maria’s, Penelope’s and Ricky’s Big Idea: Transformation of healthcare delivery for homebound patients

Transformation of healthcare delivery, including social prescribing, for Australians who are homebound. As outlined in Ricky’s report, Just Invisible, Australians who are homebound have no access to primary healthcare. They are also socially isolated. Multidisciplinary primary healthcare can be delivered to homebound Australians through telehealth, with the quality of delivery enhanced by video and the use of home monitoring devices.

You can watch them, along with all the other submissions, here.

We’re very grateful to have had this opportunity to promote, alongside other driven changemakers, our innovative ways to advance the healthcare sector in Australia. We would like to personally thank the Consumer Health Forum not only for their belief in us and Linkmate, but also for the meaningful work they are doing to support the roles consumers play as agents of change.

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