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How is Money Wasted in Health Measurement?

Everyone knows measuring healthcare performance is important, but sometimes time and money are wasted because of how measurement is being conducted, particularly if its done as a tick-box exercise without sufficient meaningful insights to drive improvement. Here are some key 2015-2016 statistics about Primary Health Networks from the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare Report on ‘Patient Experiences in Australia’.

  • At least 4 out of 5 Australians in all Primary Health Network areas rated their health positively, yet the percentage of Australians reporting a long-term health condition ranged from 43% to 63% across Primary Health Network areas.
  • Australians also reported differences in accessing healthcare services due to cost across Primary Health Network areas, with cost barriers nearly three times as high in some areas compared with others.
  • 19% of adults reported avoiding or delaying dental care due to cost.

These are useful statistics on self-reported health status, use of health services and cost barriers to accessing services. They do provide some high-level signals of where to focus, however, I can’t help but wonder:

Where is the ‘WHY’ behind these results? What are the true patient concerns, frustrations, needs and wants here?

What level of action can we implement when there is an insufficient exploration of the qualitative reasons behind these statistics? In my experience, the solutions we can put in place based on this information are very limited in its effectiveness to create meaningful change. What is needed is more granularity on these issues.

Gathering the context to statistics can be undertaken through open comments made by the research participants (provided there is an opportunity to do so in the survey!). Free-text analysis of those comments, depth interviews and small group discussions (focus groups) can also provide context.

Here’s an example:

“This last 6 months money has become a little tight as we are both attending the Dr quite regularly and with the clinic, we attend not bulk-billing we are required to pay $3.50 per visit… the extra cost per week in the last 2 or 3 months has been approximately $15-$20; this sure makes a hole in the pension…” – qualitative comment from ‘Costs of medicines and health care: a concern for Australian women across the ages’ Report, Nov 2013

Comments like this give us specifics of the cost barrier from a monetary perspective, will aid decision-making, strategy or policy development.

Getting to the heart of health issues in this way enables organisations to transform strategies on meeting healthcare’s Quadruple Aims and maximising their ROI on improving the patient experience and Consumer Engagement. These are vital components of the National Safety and Quality Healthcare Standards: Standard 2: Partnering with Consumers.

If you need some affordable help on how to incorporate the ‘WHYs’ into your measurement, reply to this e-mail OR click here if you’re curious about how to make a bigger social impact with the consumer feedback that you already capture.

We’d love to help you care better for patients, carers, and our communities AND reduce the amount of wasted investment in outdated methods of healthcare measurement.


About the Author: Dr Avnesh Ratnanesan

Dr Avi is a medical doctor with broad healthcare sector experience including hospitals, biotech, pharmaceuticals and the wellness industry. He is a leading expert who coaches and consults to senior executives, entrepreneurs, practitioners, organisations and governments.