New data shows cost variations

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Medibank and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) have released data showing the differences in surgical practice for seven procedures.

The data highlights variations in cost, out-of-pockets and rates of readmission and, according to Medibank Private, could prompt discussion on how to achieve better outcomes for patients and highlight potentially unwarranted variation.

In one example, of 9,947 hip replacements funded by Medibank in private hospitals, the average cost varied between $19,439 and $42,007 depending on the surgeon.

The average out-of-pocket charged by a surgeon varied between $0 and $5,567, according to the company, with an average charge in NSW of $2,673 compared to $1,997 in Victoria. The lowest average out-of-pocket charge was $556 in South Australia.

The company's chief medical officer, Dr Linda Swan, said it is committed to improving transparency as a way to improve healthcare outcomes, affordability and experience, and the partnership with RACS is vital to interpreting its data.

“The latest Surgical Variance Reports for Urology and Orthopaedic procedures give surgeons and other health stakeholders access to important information on key indicators such as the length of patient stay, rates of readmission and prices charged for services. This information hasn’t traditionally been available,” said Dr Swan.

“From this latest data, we can see there’s a lot of variability in out-of-pocket costs charged by surgeons depending on where you live, which may be the result of factors beyond just the complexity of the surgery or patient. It’s important that patients know to ask their specialist about out-of-pocket costs if they have concerns,” she added.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons President John Batten said the organisation is committed to ensuring surgeons have the information they need to understand clinical variance across their specialty.

“This is about looking at the quality of care in the system and how we can use these reports as an educative process: where there are surgeons that are outliers, how can they improve their practice in line with their peers? We are committed to continuous improvement in clinical practice in Australia,” said Mr Batten.