Hospital complications hit 900,000 Aussies a year

A report has highlighted the risk of people having complications at hospital and calls for greater transparency.
A report has highlighted the risk of people having complications at hospital and calls for greater transparency.

ONE in four patients who go to a hospital in Australia and stay overnight suffer some type of complication, a new report warns.

 The Grattan Institute report shows the additional risk at some of the worst-performing hospitals can be four times higher than our best practice hospitals.

One in every nine patients in Australia going to hospital suffer a complication - whether it be wrong medication, wrong diagnosis or a major problem during surgery.

The one in 9 category includes about 900,000 patients each year.

If they stay in overnight, the complications affect about 725,000 patients each year.

The report calls for all hospitals to lift their safety performance to the level of the best 10 per cent of Australian hospitals.

This would mean an extra 250,000 patients leaving hospital each year free of complications.

It also calls for hospitals to be required to publicly report their levels of patient complications.

"At present, a veil of secrecy hangs over which hospitals and clinicians have higher rates of patient complications, and which are safety leaders. Hospital safety statistics are collected, but they are kept secret, not just from patients but from doctors and hospitals,'' a statement from the Grattan Institute says.

"Patients should have access to the information on complication rates in different hospitals and for different procedures, so they - and their GPs - can make better-informed decisions about how and where they are treated.

"Doctors and hospitals should have access to the information so they can see how they are performing compared to their peers - and so they can learn from the best-performing hospitals and clinicians."

The report says that at present, official hospital safety policies focus on only a small subset of serious complications classified by government as being 'preventable'.

"Policy should instead aim to reduce the incidence of all complications to the best rate achievable. This requires building up a comprehensive picture of the whole gamut of hospital safety performance, from catastrophic but rare errors to less harmful but prevalent complications.

"The data should highlight the areas where there is a big gap between the best and the worst-performing hospitals, and it should enable patients - and taxpayers - to see which hospitals are improving and which are not.

Private health insurers should release the information they gather on private hospitals, because reducing complication rates would mean quicker recoveries and lower premiums for their members.

"Australians expect all hospitals to provide high-quality and safe care, but this report reveals that some hospitals achieve much better results than others," says Grattan Institute Health Program Director Stephen Duckett.

"The reforms we recommend could cut the complication rate in Australian hospitals by more than a quarter."

Topics:  editors picks grattan institute hospital

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