Time to take patient safety records out of the data black hole

Australian hospitals need to release more records on patient safety and treatment outcomes in the interests of driving better care, the Consumers Health Forum says.

A new report issued today (Wednesday) by the Grattan Institute, finds that while hospitals routinely collect large amounts of data on patients, little ever reaches the public or doctors outside hospitals.

“Given modern day expectations of transparency and accountability, hospitals and governments should be enabling the orderly release of these data to doctors and patients,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“As the report led by Professor Stephen Duckett has found, the scale of hospital reporting in Australia is remarkable. In NSW alone, 140,000 incident reports are made each year.  In Victoria, the report says, the State’s huge investment in time and money in incident reporting leads nowhere: no reports back to hospitals and no recommendations for action to improve care.

“We are foregoing a treasure trove of information which could support both better care and better-informed consumers.

“Quite apart from the lost opportunity to deploy effective hospital reporting to support better training to help reduce avoidable outcomes like hospital-acquired infections and surgical problems, consumers are being deprived in many cases of the detailed information collected on hospital performance which could help them assess which hospital to go to.

“Incident reporting facilitates communications between clinicians and hospital managers about safety incidents yet the information on a patient may be held in multiple separate registries.

“Hospital care would also benefit from more effective use of patient-reported experience measures (PREMS) which record patient care experiences such as, timeliness, coordination and safety of care.

“As the report states, whether patients are treated with dignity is inherently important and not monitored elsewhere.  ‘Patients are great observers of their care: they report experiences such as unrelieved pain and multiple attempts at intravenous cannulation that are not reported by other systems.’

“The report finds that Australia is well-positioned to use the data to improve care.

“Patients expect the health system to do so.  Indeed, says the report, it could be argued that it is unethical not to use all the data available to improve care for future patients,” Ms Wells said.


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Mark Metherell

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