The following appeared on the weekend:
- Adam Creswell, Health editor
- From: The Australian
- October 30, 2010
A BRAVE new world of public hospital transparency seemed to be on the horizon following the election of the Rudd government in 2007.
A perception that was encouraged by Labor's most senior figures.
Truculent states would have their heads knocked together, seemed to be the message; and they were required for the first time to divulge information that would allow an unprecedented level of scrutiny of public hospital performance.
In exchange for getting their hands on hundreds of millions of dollars in extra cash to tackle soaring waiting lists, public hospitals would have to level with the public about how they were performing across a range of measures.
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon warmed to this theme, telling a Consumers Health Forum event in October 2008 that the Rudd government had a "big focus on improving accountability and transparency", and work on performance indicators for public hospitals was "well advanced".
"Transparency and accountability create strong advantages for consumers, both as people who use health services and as taxpayers," she said. "For example, comparable data on quality of care, like adverse events or infection rates for superbugs such as MRSA [methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus], will allow consumers to legitimately distinguish between effective and less effective providers of health care, [allowing] them to make informed decisions."
However, nothing emerged until July this year when, 24 hours before the federal election was called, Roxon said the government would launch its MyHospitals website the following month. The task of completing the launch was given to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, but no launch occurred in August and no new date has been offered.
The AIHW was this week referring all inquiries about the website to Roxon's office.
Even when it does start, it will be a shadow of the service Labor promised three years ago.
It will offer comparisons between what services are provided, how many beds a hospital has and how it compares with the national average in terms of waiting times for elective surgery and emergency department care.
But there will be no information about infection rates or other adverse events, at least in the near future, and much of the information may not be up to date: it is likely to reflect the most recent available data, which at present is often at least two years out of date.
Roxon defends progress on the initiative, telling Weekend Health the government believes the public has "a right to know" how its health services are performing, and the government is "not just handing over a blank cheque and wishing for the best".
Much more here:
You can see how progress is happening by going to www.myhospitals.gov.au
The most helpful thing you get at present is the advice to call 000 in an emergency!
I did mention this planned site, and suggest this was harder than you might think, in a previous blog which you can browse here:
In this blog I also point out just how hard reliable information on which to base more than basic bed number statistics will be.
To this we now have the added to issue most quality measures will be very hard to gather and we will find the information pretty out of date.
Maybe DoHA should contract Healthgrades in the US to assist them to develop the site they want.
Have a look here to see what is possible.
It really is a shame this is all taking so long as there is no doubt that if proper comparable data can be provided and made available to the public there should be a positive impact on safety and quality.
This page reports the astonishing differences between the best and worst in the US and shows just how helpful the information can be.
At the very worst those who are careful would be able to find out what places to avoid if DoHA and AIHW were to get this sorted and going as was promised in the election campaign!
Late Update 9am Nov 2.
Computerworld is reporting the site will be available in December 2010 with very routine data only and no indicators of clinical quality and safety.