Health policies and data

OECD Reviews of Health Care Quality: Australia 2015

Raising Standards

In series:OECD Reviews of Health Care Qualityview more titles

Published on November 15, 2015


Australia’s health system functions remarkably well, despite operating under a complex set of institutions that make coordinating patient care difficult. Complications arising from a split in federal and state government funding and responsibilities are central to these challenges. This fragmented health care system can disrupt the continuity of patient care, lead to a duplication of services and leave gaps in care provision. Supervision of these health services by different levels of government can manifest in avoidable impediments such as the poor transfer of health information, and pose difficulties for patients navigating the health system. Adding to the Australian system’s complexity is a mix of services delivered through both the public and private sectors. To ease health system fragmentation and promote more integrated services, Australia should adopt a national approach to quality and performance through an enhanced federal government role in steering policy, funding and priority setting. The states, in turn, should take on a strengthened role as health service providers, with responsibility for primary care devolved to the states to better align it with hospital services and community care. A more strategic role for the centre should also leave room for the strategic development of health services at the regional level, encouraging innovation that is responsive to local population need, particularly in rural and remote areas.


Foreword and Acknowledgements
Executive summary
Assessment and recommendations
Quality of health care policies in Australia
Strengthening primary health care in Australia
The implementation of National Safety and Quality Standards in Australia's health system
Improving the quality of health care in rural and remote Australia
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  • Australia’s health system is highly fragmented, making it difficult for patients to navigate. Devolving primary care to the states and territories would better align health services, increase efficiency, and reduce the disruption to continuity of patient care.
  • The development of ten national standards for mandatory hospital accreditation represents an important element of the safety and quality improvement architecture of Australia’s health system. Expanding the scope of the standards to take in aged care, mental health services and primary health care should be a priority.
  • Australia’s national system for regulating 14 health professions makes Australia a leader among OECD countries. The system includes annual registration linked with compulsory continuing professional development, and a website that consumers can use to verify the registration of health professionals. Expanding the system to include other health professions should be the next step.
  • The existence of areas of extreme remoteness has challenged Australian health service delivery in a way that few countries have experienced. The country heavily relies on foreign doctors, and has experimented with changing scopes of practice and innovations such as telehealth to meet the needs of remote inhabitants. The quality of rural health care can be improved with strong governance, flexible funding, and by increasing the capacity of telehealth and other innovations. High-performing health services should be rewarded with greater autonomy.



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