From January 2012-13, all public and private hospitals were required to be accredited against a nationally consistent and uniform set of measures known as National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS Standards) developed by Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC).
Furthermore, 294 private hospitals are participating in the Australian Government’s MyHospitals website (as at April 2014) which provides information about individual hospital performances, including hospital services, patient admissions, waiting times for elective surgery and emergency department care, measures of safety and quality, cancer services and hospital accreditation.
APHA and private hospitals are proud of the standard of services provided in the sector. Regardless of whether they are operated on a for-profit or not-for-profit basis, private hospitals operate in a competitive environment. One of the key ways in which private hospitals seek to compete with each other and with the public sector is on the quality of their services. There is therefore a very strong imperative to maintain a high standard of safety and quality of services. However, the goal of quality services never has an end point and continuous improvement and benchmarking are essential ongoing activities.
APHA is most concerned about the duplication and overlap and accompanying compliance burden that characterises the measurement and reporting around the safety and quality of services in private hospitals. State and Territory licensing regimes, private health insurance fund contracting arrangements, accreditation agencies and State-based safety and quality agencies have all developed their own sets of measuring and reporting frameworks with which private hospitals must comply. This is wasteful and does little, if anything, to actually assure patient safety.
The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) is an independent, non-for-profit organisation that has been an important part of the Australian healthcare industry since 1974. Healthcare organisations can assess, monitor and improve their services through participation in the ACHS accreditation programs. This provides healthcare organisations the opportunity to achieve their best possible levels of performance.
The ACHS releases biennial National Accreditation Reports, the purpose of which is to provide industry, consumers and the community an overview of the national accreditation performance. More importantly, the Report assists healthcare organisations in evaluating their performance and identifying areas and opportunities for improvements.
In 2011–12, 16 private organisations and hospitals were recognised with at least one ‘outstanding achievement’ rating under the new EQuIP5 standards. A further 4 organisations and hospitals gained an outstanding achievement rating in EQuIP 4 surveys.
The Productivity Commission has stated that, Hospital-standardised mortality ratios (HSMRs) can be used as an indicator of a hospital’s underlying quality of service. This is because of two main reasons; 1) its intrinsic nature and 2) its relationship with other quality measures. According to the Productivity Commission, when looking at HSMRs scores the Commission found that:
Private hospitals tend to have lower HSMRs scores than public hospitals by 12.2% on a median-score basis and 11.7% on mean-score basis.
(PC, 2010b, pp. 68, Table 4.2)