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We all know of a suburb that has the best coffee in the city, or a postcode that’s renowned for having an exceptional cricket club, but did you know that where you live can also determine what type of healthcare you receive?
The Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation has shown that there can be up to a 21 fold* difference in the hospital treatment rate of certain conditions depending on where a patient lives – and in some cases, they could be getting recommended for invasive treatments, like surgery, when there might be more effective options available.
The report shows that Sydney’s eastern suburbs have the highest rate of lumbar spinal decompression procedures, while Richmond women are being sent to get a hysterectomy four times more regularly than women living in Dubbo.
Professor Anne Duggan, the commission’s senior medical advisor suggested that the huge disparity may not be warranted.
‘What we're trying to do is put the data out there to stimulate the experts to say, “If we've got quite marked variations in rates, what's going on? Is there clarity about who needs these surgical procedures or not, because if not where do we go next?”’
There can be a 21 fold difference in the hospital treatment rate depending on where you live
Some of the differences could be put down to a doctor’s awareness or the availability of treatment options.
However, the commission provided a number of recommendations in a bid to reduce preventable hospitalisations. We’ve taken a few of the key tips that you can do right now to help improve your treatment:
One of the key recommendations from the report was for patients to delegate a health ‘head honcho’ – a healthcare provider, that in many instances will be the individual's GP, to coordinate and manage their care.
This is especially important if you have a more complicated health plan that involves a number of different practitioners. A designated health manager can compile the different reports and recommendations and then provide comprehensive treatment advice, helping you have an integrated approach.
The commission suggests that patient data is important when it comes to improving health outcomes.
Imagine having the ability to rate a doctor or surgeon based on their medical care, manner and performance! Other patients could then view a doctor’s ratings before choosing to proceed with their treatment.
Mark Fitzgibbon, nib Chief Executive Officer agrees, “We must get reliable data and information in the palms of patients and their doctors so they are able to make more informed choices about treatment and doctor options.”
At nib, we’ve partnered with Whitecoat, a website that’s been labelled the ‘Trip Advisor’ of health. Although Whitecoat currently allows you to search for more than 200,000 healthcare providers by location, it’s being expanded to include patient reviews and their success rate of procedures.
The commission recommends that more at-home recovery support programs be available to patients, such as support and advice by telephone, email or videoconferencing.
A recent study suggests that patients who go home after knee reconstruction surgery do just as well as those who stay in hospital. And with at-home recovery meaning you have access to your own bed, bath and wifi, many patients would prefer to have this as an option. If you’re interested in finding more about the benefits of at-home recovery, check out Home vs hospital: Where should you recover post-surgery?
If you are heading to hospital, nib already offers a range of Health Management Programs at no cost to eligible members with Hospital Cover, including a Discharge Support Program. These programs allow nib customers access to a personalised recovery program after they return from hospital. If you would like to find out whether you’re eligible, or you’d like more information, call us on 1800 339 219 or email [email protected].
*Per 100,000 population