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Public reporting must keep pace with changes in healthcare system

Public reporting must keep pace with changes in healthcare system

The latest issue of Healthcare Quarterly reflects changes to data coding practices that have taken place across public hospitals in NSW, and the addition of performance data for more emergency departments (EDs).

BHI is reporting, for the first time, on the number of inpatient episodes involving mental health treatment. This is an important step toward performance reporting in this space and supports a growing public interest in mental health services.

This issue of Healthcare Quarterly also features the inclusion of 44 EDs from regional NSW that have recently switched to an electronic record system. Increasing regional representation in Healthcare Quarterly is essential for accurately reporting activity and performance, particularly for local health districts that primarily have small EDs.

These additions bring the total number of EDs included in Healthcare Quarterly up to 175 facilities, providing a more complete picture of activity and performance throughout NSW.

There is a further change relating to EDs in this issue of Healthcare Quarterly. Since January 2018, local health districts and health networks across NSW have changed their data coding practices for documenting which patients are admitted to hospitals from the ED.

Prior to January, some patients could be classified as an admission even though they were never transferred out of the ED to an inpatient ward prior to leaving the hospital. Now, these patients are counted as discharged from the ED. This change in data coding practice more accurately reflects the number of patients who were admitted to hospital and the number of patients who were discharged from the ED.

Healthcare Quarterly is continuously reviewed by BHI to see how it can be improved, as it is only by staying relevant and valid that public reporting can keep pace with changes in the healthcare system.

In the context of public reporting, relevance – the degree to which an issue resonates with current interests – refers to what is measured. Determining what is important and keeping pace with change in the healthcare system is an iterative process involving a series of feedback loops, including stakeholder engagement, ongoing exploration of the data, and communication of the findings.

As much as a healthcare system is dynamic, public reporting should be responsive to local changes in policies and practices. It should also anticipate pressures and priorities based on what is happening in other healthcare systems in Australia and around the world.

The data are the medium through which these relevant issues are communicated. The quality of the data impacts its validity and the extent to which it accurately reflects what is going on within the healthcare system. Establishing relevance and data validity is the precursor to making fair comparisons and assessing meaningful change.

Relevant, high-quality information supports increased understanding of the healthcare system, informed decision making by patients, healthcare professionals and policy-makers, and, ultimately, improved patient care and wellbeing.

Page updated: 25 Feb 2020