Why potentially preventable hospitalisations matter
The Australian population is experiencing an increasing burden of disease from conditions such as COPD, congestive heart failure and diabetes. People with these conditions often require ongoing health care management by GPs, specialists and allied health professionals in order to maintain their health and stay out of hospital.
Potentially preventable hospitalisations for these conditions can therefore be used as a measure of the performance of primary health and other out-of-hospital care, as the admission may have been avoided with the provision of optimal care in the community.
Importantly, the fact that hospitalisation for a particular condition is classified as ‘potentially preventable’ does not mean that a patient admitted for that condition did not need to be hospitalised. Rather, it signifies that the hospitalisation could have been avoided had the patient received appropriate and timely prevention or management for the condition out of hospital.
The number of days a patient stays in hospital for a potentially preventable hospitalisation can also be used as a measure of how well local health systems are performing, particularly at the interface between primary health and hospital care. The number of days patients spend in hospital may reflect the effectiveness and coordination of out-of-hospital care.
In previous reports, the Authority has found large differences across Australia’s public hospitals in the average length of stay in hospital for similar patients with conditions such as COPD and heart failure, even among hospitals of similar size and geographic location (Appendix 3).2 This has led to substantial variation across hospitals in the costs of treating patients for these conditions.3
Accordingly, people admitted to hospital for one of the 22 conditions for which admissions are considered potentially preventable are of interest to PHNs and Local Hospital Networks (see Glossary). PHNs have been established to ‘increase the efficiency and effectiveness of medical services for patients, particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes’. They also aim to improve coordination of care to ensure ‘patients receive the right care at the right place and right time’.1
Local Hospital Networks may find the number of hospital bed days for potentially preventable hospitalisations of interest because they have the opportunity to reduce the length of stay.
This report aims to provide health care professionals with information about factors they could influence to improve the coordination of care provided in the community, working with the hospital sector, to reduce potentially preventable hospitalisations.
Figure 2: How a bed day is measured in this report?
- Australian Government Department of Health. Primary Health Networks [Internet]. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2014 [cited 2015 Oct 13]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/primary_Health_NetworksExternal link, opens in a new window.
- National Health Performance Authority. Hospital Performance: Length of stay in public hospitals in 2011–12 [Internet]. Sydney: National Health Performance Authority; 2013 Nov 7 [cited 2015 Oct 13]. Available from: http://www.myhospitals.gov.au/our-reports/length-of-stay/november-2013/reportExternal link, opens in a new window.
- National Health Performance Authority. Hospital Performance: Costs of acute admitted patients in public hospitals in 2011–12 [Internet]. Sydney: National Health Performance Authority; 2015 Apr 30 [cited 2015 Oct 29]. Available from: http://www.myhospitals.gov.au/our-reports/cost-of-acute-admitted-patients/april-2015/reportExternal link, opens in a new window.