New report reveals preventable hospitalisations due to just five conditions

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Private Healthcare Australia says the Fourth Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation would make a significant contribution to improving healthcare delivery in Australia.

The Atlas is produced by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care in partnership with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

It examines 17 items across six clinical topics - early planned births; potentially preventable hospitalisations for chronic disease and infection ear; nose and throat surgery in children and young people; lumbar spinal surgery; gastrointestinal investigations; and, medicines use in older people.

This year's Atlas found around half (between 43 per cent and 56 per cent) of planned caesarean section births performed before 39 weeks in 2017 did not have a medical or obstetric reason. 

It also revealed high rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations among those living in remote and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. This was the case for all five conditions examined in the Atlas - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney infections and urinary tract infections, cellulitis, heart failure and diabetes complications.

It found there were more than 330,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations in Australia due to these five conditions in 2017-18.

“Australia’s healthcare system is something that all Australians can be proud of, our healthcare professionals and our hospitals are among the best in the world. However, the impact of COVID-19 coupled with increasing expectations of our ageing population have highlighted the need to focus resources where they are most efficient and effective,” said Private Healthcare Australia chief executive Dr Rachel David.

“The delivery of high quality, evidence-based treatment options that improve health outcomes for consumers, has never been more important. The Atlas, produced by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare contributes to this goal by mapping healthcare use across Australia and identifying unwarranted variation in healthcare treatments.

“The use of health interventions with negligible benefit to patients causes harm to individuals and contributes unnecessarily to healthcare inflation. As the costs of healthcare continue to rise and affordability becomes an increasingly major concern for Australian consumers, providing accurate, evidence-based information to consumers and healthcare professionals is critical to ensuring the sustainability of our world-class healthcare system.

“Further, its contribution to improving the safety of healthcare interventions for Australians cannot be underestimated. For example, the Atlas has identified an unnecessary risk to many Australian babies as a result of the early scheduling of births by caesarean section, without medical reason.”