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1.  Activity-Based Funding of Hospitals and Its Impact on Mortality, Readmission, Discharge Destination, Severity of Illness, and Volume of Care: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109975.
Activity-based funding (ABF) of hospitals is a policy intervention intended to re-shape incentives across health systems through the use of diagnosis-related groups. Many countries are adopting or actively promoting ABF. We assessed the effect of ABF on key measures potentially affecting patients and health care systems: mortality (acute and post-acute care); readmission rates; discharge rate to post-acute care following hospitalization; severity of illness; volume of care.
We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of the worldwide evidence produced since 1980. We included all studies reporting original quantitative data comparing the impact of ABF versus alternative funding systems in acute care settings, regardless of language. We searched 9 electronic databases (OVID MEDLINE, EMBASE, OVID Healthstar, CINAHL, Cochrane CENTRAL, Health Technology Assessment, NHS Economic Evaluation Database, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Business Source), hand-searched reference lists, and consulted with experts. Paired reviewers independently screened for eligibility, abstracted data, and assessed study credibility according to a pre-defined scoring system, resolving conflicts by discussion or adjudication.
Of 16,565 unique citations, 50 US studies and 15 studies from 9 other countries proved eligible (i.e. Australia, Austria, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland). We found consistent and robust differences between ABF and no-ABF in discharge to post-acute care, showing a 24% increase with ABF (pooled relative risk  = 1.24, 95% CI 1.18–1.31). Results also suggested a possible increase in readmission with ABF, and an apparent increase in severity of illness, perhaps reflecting differences in diagnostic coding. Although we found no consistent, systematic differences in mortality rates and volume of care, results varied widely across studies, some suggesting appreciable benefits from ABF, and others suggesting deleterious consequences.
Transitioning to ABF is associated with important policy- and clinically-relevant changes. Evidence suggests substantial increases in admissions to post-acute care following hospitalization, with implications for system capacity and equitable access to care. High variability in results of other outcomes leaves the impact in particular settings uncertain, and may not allow a jurisdiction to predict if ABF would be harmless. Decision-makers considering ABF should plan for likely increases in post-acute care admissions, and be aware of the large uncertainty around impacts on other critical outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4210200  PMID: 25347697
2.  Canadians' Views about Health System Performance 
Healthcare Policy  2012;7(3):85-101.
Objectives and methods:
The re-negotiation of the 10-year 2004 First Ministers' Accord provides an opportunity to review medicare's fundamentals. We used the published results from 13 Commonwealth Fund international health surveys to assess Canadians' views of health system performance and compared these to the views of respondents from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Although a majority of Canadians wish to see fundamental change to their health system, medicare performs relatively well in an international context on key dimensions of access.
Canadians see a need for improvement in the healthcare system, particularly access to prescription medications.
PMCID: PMC3298024  PMID: 23372583
3.  Development of an interactive model for planning the care workforce for Alberta: case study 
In common with other jurisdictions, Alberta faces challenges in ensuring a balance in health worker supply and demand. As the provider organization with province-wide responsibility, Alberta Health Services needed to develop a forecasting tool to inform its position on key workforce parameters, in the first instance focused on modeling the situation for Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and health care aides. This case study describes the development of the model, highlighting the choices involved in model development.
Case description
A workforce planning model was developed to test the effect of different assumptions (for instance about vacancy rates or retirement) and different policy choices (for example about the size of intakes into universities and colleges, different composition of the workforce). This case study describes the choices involved in designing the model. The workforce planning model was used as part of a consultation process and to develop six scenarios (based on different policy choices).
Discussion and evaluation
The model outputs highlighted the problems with continuation of current workforce strategies and the impact of key policy choices on workforce parameters.
Models which allow for transparency of the underlying assumptions, and the ability to assess the sensitivity of assumptions and the impact of policy choices are required for effective workforce planning.
PMCID: PMC3543178  PMID: 22905726
4.  Getting the Foundations Right: Alberta's Approach to Healthcare Reform 
Healthcare Policy  2011;6(3):22-27.
Alberta's abolition of its health regions and the creation of Alberta Health Services in 2008 has integrated previously disparate providers of healthcare services. The long-term benefits of this “second-wave” approach to health systems structuring include lower administrative costs, greater equity of access, improved intraprovincial learning and economies of scale. Some benefits have begun to be realized but, as with any merger, performance should be judged over a multi-year time frame.
PMCID: PMC3082384  PMID: 22294988
5.  Empirical aspects of record linkage across multiple data sets using statistical linkage keys: the experience of the PIAC cohort study 
In Australia, many community service program data collections developed over the last decade, including several for aged care programs, contain a statistical linkage key (SLK) to enable derivation of client-level data. In addition, a common SLK is now used in many collections to facilitate the statistical examination of cross-program use. In 2005, the Pathways in Aged Care (PIAC) cohort study was funded to create a linked aged care database using the common SLK to enable analysis of pathways through aged care services.
Linkage using an SLK is commonly deterministic. The purpose of this paper is to describe an extended deterministic record linkage strategy for situations where there is a general person identifier (e.g. an SLK) and several additional variables suitable for data linkage. This approach can allow for variation in client information recorded on different databases.
A stepwise deterministic record linkage algorithm was developed to link datasets using an SLK and several other variables. Three measures of likely match accuracy were used: the discriminating power of match key values, an estimated false match rate, and an estimated step-specific trade-off between true and false matches. The method was validated through examining link properties and clerical review of three samples of links.
The deterministic algorithm resulted in up to an 11% increase in links compared with simple deterministic matching using an SLK. The links identified are of high quality: validation samples showed that less than 0.5% of links were false positives, and very few matches were made using non-unique match information (0.01%). There was a high degree of consistency in the characteristics of linked events.
The linkage strategy described in this paper has allowed the linking of multiple large aged care service datasets using a statistical linkage key while allowing for variation in its reporting. More widely, our deterministic algorithm, based on statistical properties of match keys, is a useful addition to the linker's toolkit. In particular, it may prove attractive when insufficient data are available for clerical review or follow-up, and the researcher has fewer options in relation to probabilistic linkage.
PMCID: PMC2842267  PMID: 20167118
6.  The geographic distribution of private health insurance in Australia in 2001 
Private health insurance has been a major focus of Commonwealth Government health policy for the last decade. Over this period, the Howard government introduced a number of policy changes which impacted on the take up of private health insurance. The most expensive of these was the introduction of the private health insurance rebate in 1997, which had an estimated cost of $3 billion per annum.
This article uses information on the geographic distribution of the population with private health insurance cover to identify associations between rates of private health insurance cover and socioeconomic status. The geographic analysis is repeated with survey data on expenditure on private health insurance, to provide an estimate of the rebate flowing to different socioeconomic groups.
The analysis highlights the strong association between high rates of private health insurance cover and high socioeconomic status and shows the substantial transfer of funds, under the private health insurance rebate, to those living in areas of highest socioeconomic status, compared with those in areas of lower socioeconomic status, and in particular those in the most disadvantaged areas. The article also provides estimates of private health insurance cover by federal electorate, emphasising the substantial gaps in cover between Liberal Party and Australian Labor Party seats.
The article concludes by discussing implications of the uneven distribution of private health insurance cover across Australia for policy formation. In particular, the study shows that the prevalence of private health insurance is unevenly distributed across Australia, with marked differences in prevalence in rural and urban areas, and substantial differences by socioeconomic status. Policy formation needs to take this into account. Evaluating the potential impact of changes in private health insurance requires more nuanced consideration than has been implied in the rhetoric about private health insurance over the last decade.
PMCID: PMC3224949  PMID: 19686590
7.  Using routine inpatient data to identify patients at risk of hospital readmission 
A relatively small percentage of patients with chronic medical conditions account for a much larger percentage of inpatient costs. There is some evidence that case-management can improve health and quality-of-life and reduce the number of times these patients are readmitted. To assess whether a statistical algorithm, based on routine inpatient data, can be used to identify patients at risk of readmission and who would therefore benefit from case-management.
Queensland database study of public-hospital patients, who had at least one emergency admission for a chronic medical condition (e.g., congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or dementia) during 2005/2006. Multivariate logistic regression was used to develop an algorithm to predict readmission within 12 months. The performance of the algorithm was tested against recorded readmissions using sensitivity, specificity, and Likelihood Ratios (positive and negative).
Several factors were identified that predicted readmission (i.e., age, co-morbidities, economic disadvantage, number of previous admissions). The discriminatory power of the model was modest as determined by area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (c = 0.65). At a risk score threshold of 50, the algorithm identified only 44.7% (95% CI: 42.5%, 46.9%) of patients admitted with a reference condition who had an admission in the next 12 months; 37.5% (95% CI: 35.0%, 40.0%) of patients were flagged incorrectly (they did not have a subsequent admission).
A statistical algorithm based on Queensland hospital inpatient data, performed only moderately in identifying patients at risk of readmission. The main problem is that there are too many false negatives, which means that many patients who might benefit would not be offered case-management.
PMCID: PMC2700797  PMID: 19505342
8.  Developing 'robust performance benchmarks' for the next Australian Health Care Agreement: the need for a new framework 
If the outcomes of the recent COAG meeting are implemented, Australia will have a new set of benchmarks for its health system within a few months. This is a non-trivial task. Choice of benchmarks will, explicitly or implicitly, reflect a framework about how the health system works, what is important or to be valued and how the benchmarks are to be used. In this article we argue that the health system is dynamic and so benchmarks need to measure flows and interfaces rather than simply cross-sectional or static performance. We also argue that benchmarks need to be developed taking into account three perspectives: patient, clinician and funder. Each of these perspectives is critical and good performance from one perspective or on one dimension doesn't imply good performance on either (or both) of the others.
The three perspectives (we term the dimensions patient assessed value, performance on clinical interventions and efficiency) can each be decomposed into a number of elements. For example, patient assessed value is influenced by timeliness, cost to the patient, the extent to which their expectations are met, the way they are treated and the extent to which there is continuity of care.
We also argue that the way information is presented is important: cross sectional, dated measures provide much less information and are much less useful than approaches based on statistical process control. The latter also focuses attention on improvement and trends, encouraging action rather than simply blame of poorer performers.
PMCID: PMC2383904  PMID: 18439247
9.  Design of price incentives for adjunct policy goals in formula funding for hospitals and health services 
Hospital policy involves multiple objectives: efficiency of service delivery, pursuit of high quality care, promoting access. Funding policy based on hospital casemix has traditionally been considered to be only about promoting efficiency.
Formula-based funding policy can be (and has been) used to pursue a range of policy objectives, not only efficiency. These are termed 'adjunct' goals. Strategies to incorporate adjunct goals into funding design must, implicitly or explicitly, address key decision choices outlined in this paper.
Policy must be clear and explicit about the behaviour to be rewarded; incentives must be designed so that all facilities with an opportunity to improve have an opportunity to benefit; the reward structure is stable and meaningful; and the funder monitors performance and gaming.
PMCID: PMC2322968  PMID: 18384694
11.  Australia and New Zealand Health Policy: a new journal 
Australia and New Zealand Health Policy is a new journal which aims to promote debate and understanding about contemporary health policy developments in Australia and New Zealand. Although there are other international journals focussing on health policy, there are no Australian or New Zealand journals with this focus.
One of the aims of Australia and New Zealand Health Policy is to focus on contemporary critiques and contemporary developments. Accordingly an e-journal format is particularly appropriate. Australian and New Zealand Health Policy is an open access journal which means that all articles will be freely and universally accessible online which, amongst other things, means that all articles will be freely and universally accessible online without any barriers to access, which increases their visibility.
PMCID: PMC544960  PMID: 15679922
12.  The Australian Health Care Agreements 2003–2008 
The Australian Health Care Agreements for the five years 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2008 were signed in August 2003 after vituperative debate and intransigence from the Commonwealth that vitiated the negotiation process. The new Agreements, which were not as generous as the Agreements they replaced, increase accountability on the States, requiring States to match increases in Commonwealth funding, and de-emphasise the prospects for further reform in Commonwealth-State relations during the course of the Agreements. This paper describes the new Australian Health Care Agreements and the process which led to them.
PMCID: PMC546402  PMID: 15679941
13.  Validity of the AusTOM scales: A comparison of the AusTOMs and EuroQol-5D 
Clinicians require brief outcome measures in their busy daily practice to document global client outcomes. Based on the UK Therapy Outcome Measure, the Australian Therapy Outcome Measures were designed to capture global therapy outcomes of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology in the Australian clinical context. The aim of this study was to investigate the construct (convergent) validity of the Australian Therapy Outcome Measures (AusTOMs) by comparing it with the EuroQuol-5D (EQ-5D).
The research was a prospective, longitudinal cohort study, with data collected over a seven month time period. The study was conducted at a total of 13 metropolitan and rural health-care sites including acute, sub-acute and community facilities. Two-hundred and five clients were asked to score themselves on the EQ-5D, and the same clients were scored by approximately 115 therapists (physiotherapists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists) using the AusTOMs at admission and discharge. Clients were consecutive admissions who agreed to participate in the study. Clients of all diagnoses, aged 18 years and over (a criteria of the EQ-5D), and able to give informed consent were scored on the measures. Spearman rank order correlation coefficients were used to analyze the relationships between scores from the two tools. The clients were scored on the AusTOMs and EQ-5D.
There were many health care areas where correlations were expected and found between scores on the AusTOMs and the EQ-5D.
In the quest to measure the effectiveness of therapy services, managers, health care founders and clinicians are urgently seeking to undertake the first step by identifying tools that can measure therapy outcome. AusTOMs is one tool that can measure global client outcomes following therapy. In this study, it was found that on the whole, the AusTOMs and the EQ-5D measure similar constructs. Hence, although the validity of a tool is never 'proven', this study offers preliminary support for the construct validity of AusTOMs.
PMCID: PMC543469  PMID: 15541181
outcomes; assessment
14.  Orthopaedic GP Fellowship: does it work? 
BACKGROUND: General practitioners (GPs) see a significant number of musculoskeletal problems in their daily caseload. However, orthopaedic training often forms a relatively small part of their undergraduate and postgraduate training. METHODS: A training fellowship for GPs was set up in Warrington to improve management of patients with common orthopaedic complaints in the primary care setting, and to facilitate more appropriate referrals to orthopaedic surgeons. Following the fellowship, GP referral patterns were examined. RESULTS: It was found that the GP fellows were managing many conditions more appropriately, either conservatively, or with skills learnt during the fellowship. There was an increase in the number of referred cases being listed for surgery indicating a more appropriate referral pattern to hospital. CONCLUSIONS: The Orthopaedic GP Fellowship has improved patient management in primary care and helped GPS better identify those patients who need to be referred for a specialist orthopaedic opinion.
PMCID: PMC1964369  PMID: 12836649
15.  Drug Policy Down Under: Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme 
Health Care Financing Review  2004;25(3):55-67.
Australia has had a government subsidized universal system of pharmaceutical provision for 50 years. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) consumes around 14 percent of total government health care expenditures and has grown substantially in both range of drugs covered, and expenditure since it was first introduced in 1950. It incorporates patient copayments (with differentials for the general population compared with concessional beneficiaries). Prior to listing a drug on the PBS it is subject to a rigorous cost-effectiveness analysis.
PMCID: PMC4194861  PMID: 15229996

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