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The evolving role of intensive care in health care and society

Stephen Warrillow and Raymond Raper
Med J Aust 2019; 211 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50340
Published online: 7 October 2019

Despite the evolving needs of patients and changing societal expectations, Australasian intensive care continues to provide a world leading service to patients and the broader society

With Melbourne hosting the 2019 World Congress of Intensive Care, it is timely to reflect on the nature of the speciality and consider its role within health care. The intensive care unit (ICU) can be a daunting place. For patients, families and even non‐intensive care clinicians, the complex and technically advanced environment can feel intimidating. The ICU represents a microcosm of the broader acute health care system, where the challenges of patient‐centred care, treatment, communication and resource management are encountered in a more impactful setting. The reach of intensive care is wide; current estimates from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Centre for Outcome and Resource Evaluation suggest that Australians and New Zealanders have a 50% lifetime chance of requiring admission to an ICU.1 Intensive care interacts with every other element of acute care, serving the needs of patients, specialist units, hospitals and broader society. In its more recent history, intensive care has evolved to encompass more than just a single geographic location; it is an organised system of care that ensures delivery of timely and expert treatment to critically ill patients, increasingly extending this capability beyond the walls of the ICU itself and into many other settings.

  • Stephen Warrillow1,2,3
  • Raymond Raper4,5

  • 1 Austin Heath, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 4 College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne, VIC
  • 5 Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, NSW


Competing interests:

Stephen Warrilow is President of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society and Convenor of the 2019 World Congress of Intensive Care. Raymond Raper is President of the CICM.

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