End ‘secret hospital business’ and release patient complication rates

A new report makes a compelling case for Australia’s public and private hospitals to publish patient complication rates in hospitals as a means of driving better treatment outcomes, the Consumers Health Forum says.

The report by the Grattan Institute states that “a veil of secrecy” hangs over which hospitals and clinicians have a higher rate of complications and which are good performers.

“It may come as a surprise to many people that one in nine hospital patients, or about 900,000 patients suffers a complication each year in Australia,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, says.

“Every health system collects this information yet it remains hidden from the public. It also remains hidden from doctors and hospitals too – the very people who can use the data to respond to areas of low performance and make improvements in the patients’ interests.

“It’s time for Australia to change its attitudes and practices to how hospital patient data is used.

“If hospitals have something to hide, the public should know about it.  If hospitals are doing well then they have nothing to hide. Based on their data, the safety leaders are well placed to work with policy makers, other hospitals, clinicians and consumers to share the practices that contribute to their better outcomes. 

“Consumers should be able to access information about their hospitals’ performance, not only to assess the quality and safety record but as a matter of public transparency to encourage best possible outcomes.

“The collection of detailed information concerning patient complications ranges from low blood pressure to vomiting and haemorrhage. 

“While many of these complications are not major and may be rectified promptly, they can nonetheless point to many ways in which hospital care can be improved for the benefit of patients.

“The report All complications should count: Using our data to make our hospitals safer, by Dr Stephen Duckett and Dr Christine Jorm, identifies an important flaw in the current approach to preventing hospital mistakes in Australia.   At present hospital safety policies focus on a small range of serious but rare events like failing to remove surgical items from a patient at the conclusion of an operation, or administering incorrect blood transfusion products.

“The report says that instead the policy should be directed towards reducing all complications.  This would require developing a comprehensive picture of patient outcomes, and understanding how some hospitals and clinical teams reduce all complications and achieve excellent outcomes.

“As the report states: ‘Governments need to set ambitious goals for every hospital --- public and private --- to improve their safety and quality of care”.

“More data and more use of data for quality, improvement and innovation is the way of the future in Australian health care if we are to be assured that our hospitals and other health facilities will deliver the best possible treatment outcomes possible”.       


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