The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (The Commission) has released the Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation (Atlas) this week.
Releasing the Atlas in Canberra, Atlas Advisory Group Chair Professor Anne Duggan said the new report tells a number of good stories about the Australian health care system.
“Australians are fortunate in having world-class health care, including surgical care. Landmark accomplishments in surgical practice have revolutionised surgical care, saved countless lives, and significantly improved longevity and the quality of life.
“However, there is variation in the use of health care in Australia, including surgery. You always expect to find some variation, and in many cases this is a good thing, as it shows the health system is responding to the higher or lower health needs or preferences of people in different areas. But these very large differences we are seeing suggest some of this variation may be unwarranted,” she said.
The second Atlas shows variation in the use of specific types of health care across more than 300 local areas across Australia, with a specific chapter on women’s health.
It examines four clinical themes: chronic disease and infection – potentially preventable hospitalisations, cardiovascular, women’s health and maternity, and surgical interventions.
The report shows a number of features in the health care system that are particular to Australia.
For example, in Australia, hysterectomy remains more common than in comparable countries where it has been replaced by less invasive but highly effective treatments. The Atlas shows rates are up to seven times as high in the area with the highest rate compared to the area with the lowest rate.
In addition, the rate of hospitalisations for conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) varies up to 16 fold between local areas. COPD along with diabetes complications, heart failure cellulitis and kidney and urinary tract infections were almost half (47%) of potentially preventable hospitalisations in Australia (2014-15).
The Commission has made recommendations, including encouraging services to routinely monitor clinical practice variation and patient outcomes and report this back to clinicians, as actions the health system could take to address this variation.
Professor Anne Duggan, said the Atlas provided new information for clinicians on where efforts could be targeted to improve patient care.
“The goal is appropriate care – the right care for the right person, at the right time. The Atlas focuses on areas of health care in which the thinking about what treatments work best has changed considerably in recent years, either because better treatments have come along or because the evidence about existing treatments has shifted. The Atlas helps us to see which local areas could benefit further from these newer and better approaches,” said Professor Duggan.
The second Atlas can be found here.