Alarming variations in treatment signal need for reforms

A new report showing dramatic differences in treatment rates around Australia signals a pressing need for reforms to ensure equitable access to appropriate health care for all Australians, the Consumers Health Forum, says.

“A seven-fold difference in hospitalisation for heart failure and a 15-fold difference for a serious chronic respiratory disease depending on place of residence, are among many findings of substantial variations in treatment rates in Australia revealed in the Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation,” the chairman of Consumers Health Forum, Tony Lawson, said.

“While there are a variety of factors contributing to these differences,  the variation in health and treatment outcomes is, as the report states, an ‘alarm bell’ that should make us stop and investigate whether appropriate care is being delivered.

“The report, compiled by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, shows us that high hospitalisation rates often point to inadequate primary care in the community, leading to higher rates of potentially preventative hospitalisation,” said Mr Lawson who is a member of the Atlas Advisory Group.

“The most disturbing example of this has been the higher hospitalisation rates for all of the 18 clinical conditions surveyed experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, people living in areas of relative socioeconomic disadvantage and those living in remote areas.

“These findings show that recommended care for chronic diseases is not always provided. Even with the significant funding provided through Medicare to better coordinate primary care for people with chronic and complex conditions, fragmented health services contribute to suboptimal management, as the report states.

“We support the report’s recommendation for a stronger primary health system that would provide a clinical ‘home base’ for coordination of patient care and in which patients and carers are activated to develop their knowledge and confidence to manage their health with the aid of a healthcare team.

“The Atlas provides further robust reasons for federal, state and territory governments to act on the demonstrated need for a more effective primary health system that will ensure better and more cost effective care for all Australians.

“The Atlas also examined  variations in women’s health care, and its findings included a seven-fold difference in rates of hysterectomy and  21-fold  difference in rates of endometrial ablation.  The report states that rates of hysterectomy and caesarean sections in Australia are higher than reported rates in other developed nations.  These results highlight the need for continuing support and information on women’s health issues,” Mr Lawson said.

The Second Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation can be read here: https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/atlas/

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Media contact

Jo Root

E:  j.root@chf.org.au 
T:  02 6273 5444 
M: 0429 111 986

*Communications Director Mark Metherell is currently on leave.