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Adverse events are defined as incidents in which harm resulted to a person receiving health care. They include infections, falls resulting in injuries, and problems with medication and medical devices. Some of these adverse events may be preventable.

Hospital separations data include information on diagnoses, places of occurrence and external causes of injury and poisoning that can indicate that an adverse event was treated and/or occurred during the hospitalisation. However, other diagnosis codes may also suggest that an adverse event has occurred, and some adverse events are not identifiable using these codes.

In 2011–12, 5.3% of separations reported an ICD-10-AM code indicating an adverse event. The proportion of separations with an adverse event was 6.1% for public hospitals and 3.9% for private hospitals (Table 6). The data for public hospitals are not comparable with the data for private hospitals because their casemixes differ and recording practices may be different.

For public hospital separations, 1.8% of same-day separations reported an adverse event compared with 10.7% of overnight separations. For private hospitals, 1.4% of same-day separations reported an adverse event compared with 9.4% of overnight separations.

Separations for sub- and non-acute care had higher rates of adverse events than acute care separations (9.3 and 5.0 separations with an adverse event per 100, respectively), and emergency admissions had higher rates of adverse events than non-emergency admissions (9.1 and 3.8 separations with an adverse event per 100, respectively).

Table 6: Separations with an adverse event per 100 separations, public and private hospitals, 2011–12
Public hospitals Private hospitals Total
Separations with an adverse event 338,579 147,731 486,310
Separations with an adverse event per 100 separations
Same-day separations 1.8 1.4 1.6
Overnight separations 10.7 9.4 10.3
Acute care separations 5.9 3.7 5.0
Sub- and non-acute care separations 11.2 7.4 9.3
Emergency admission 8.9 11.9 9.1
Non-emergency admission 4.2 3.5 3.8
Total 6.1 3.9 5.3