Hospital :: Half a million hospital admissions avoidable

A new report released by the University of Adelaide’s Public Health Information Development Unit shows that almost 9% of hospital admissions in Australia should have been avoided, with highest rates among the oldest and most disadvantaged Australians.

The Atlas of Avoidable Hospitalisations in Australia: ambulatory care-sensitive conditions examines hospitalisations which should be able to be avoided with preventive care and early disease management.

“This measure is primarily one of access to health care,” said John Glover, Director of the Public Health Information Development Unit, a collaborating unit of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

“Higher rates of avoidable hospitalisations indicate less access to effective and timely primary health care, delivered for example by a general practitioner or at a community health centre. Key factors important in the number of avoidable hospitalisations are age, socioeconomic status and remoteness.”

The report shows that in 2001/02, 8.7% or 552,000 hospital admissions were potentially avoidable with 27.1% occurring in the 75 years and over age bracket.

The report shows that socioeconomic status was important with 61% more avoidable hospitalisations among people in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia compared to those in the least disadvantaged areas.

“There is a distinct, step-wise socioeconomic gradient evident in total avoidable hospitalisation rates in Australia, with each increase in disadvantage accompanied by an increase in admissions from these conditions,” Mr Glover said.

The Northern Territory (10.7%) and Tasmania (9.5%) both had higher than national average avoidable hospitalisations, the ACT was below national average (8.2%) and the remaining states all close to national average.

Almost two-thirds of avoidable hospital admissions were attributable to chronic conditions, with large numbers from diabetes complications and circulatory and respiratory conditions. Just over one-third were attributable to acute conditions (dental conditions, dehydration and gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, convulsions and epilepsy, and cellulitis). A small proportion were due to vaccine-preventable conditions (mainly influenza and pneumonia).

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