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Australian healthcare good, but could be better

16 May 2014, by Informa Insights

A new report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) suggests that the quality of Australian healthcare is comparable on a global scale, but there are still areas for improvement.

According to the ‘OECD health-care quality indicators in Australia 2011-12’ report, Australia performed well in a range of key areas such as primary care, mental healthcare and hospital patient safety. The quality of healthcare was measured by looking at the rates of avoidable hospital admissions for a series of health conditions.

For instance, avoidable admission rates for diabetes in Australia were revealed to be “similar to or better than the OECD average” in 2011. Australia recorded superior performance in several other areas as well, with its death rate following hospital admission for heart attacks lower than the OECD average.

“Australia performed well when looking at the indicators for cancer care – from 2001-06 to 2006-11, five-year survival rates for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers were better in Australia than the OECD averages,” added AIHW spokesperson Nigel Harding.

It is worth noting, though, that the report also highlighted key areas where Australia underperformed in relation to the rest of the OECD and thus require attention moving forward. One of these is the rate for unplanned hospital readmissions for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – the Australian rates for both these conditions were higher than the OECD average.

Obstetric management was also identified as a possible area of concern for Australian healthcare, although it’s difficult to accurately gauge its performance on a global scale.

“Australia’s rates for indicators such as postoperative complications and obstetric trauma were generally higher than the 2011 OECD averages,” explained Mr Harding.

“However, we think this is largely due to differences in reporting internationally, and specifically, better patient safety and monitoring of these events in Australia.”

Mr Harding concluded that while differences in data collection and quality across countries made it difficult to conduct conclusive international comparisons, the general indication is that Australia “is doing well on most counts, but there is room for improvement in some areas”.

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