New Atlas plots variation in healthcare across Australia

On 26 November the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) launched the first Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation (see here). The Atlas highlights the variation in healthcare provision across Australia, and importantly highlights the potential overuse of procedures, medication and interventions.

Key highlights of the Atlas are as follows:

  1. Antimicrobial dispensing – significant variation across the country, with the highest rate of total antimicrobial dispensing (Campbelltown, NSW) being almost 12 times more than the area with the lowest rate (Tiwi Islands/ West Arnhem). WA stands out as being more successful than other parts of the country in keeping rates of antimicrobial dispensing relatively low. Internationally, Australia has a very high rate of antimicrobial dispensing (more than twice the rates of the Netherlands for instance)
  2. Diagnostic interventions – wide variation of particular interventions across the country (an example being colonoscopies where the highest rate was 30 times that of the lowest).
  3. Surgical interventions – wide variation across the country (for example women living in regional areas of Australia were over five times more likely to undergo a hysterectomy or endometrial ablation than those living in metropolitan areas)
  4. Interventions for mental health and psychotropic medicines – the greatest variation was seen in in dispensing of prescriptions for psychotropic medicines for those aged 17 years and under (for example the number of prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medicines in the area with the highest rate was 75 times more than in the area with the lowest rate)
  5. Opioid medicines – a wide variety of rates of prescriptions for opioids across the country (the number of prescriptions dispensed was more than 10 times higher in the area with the highest rate compared to the area with the lowest rate)
  6. Interventions for chronic diseases – reflective of the generally poorer health status of indigenous Australians, hospital admission rates for asthma, COPD, heart failure and diabetes-related amputations were markedly higher in remote areas of Australia.

What variations in healthcare provision have you seen or experienced? We would love to know.