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Evidence from a number of other countries shows that public reporting on the performance of health care organisations drives improvements in patient care and health systems. Publishing comparative data is important for transparency and accountability, in that it enables the community to see how their local services are performing. It also enables clinicians and service providers to see which organisations are achieving excellence nationally so they can better identify which models of care work best. By establishing baseline performance measures, we can also identify over time which health care organisations are performing well and highlight areas where improvements are needed.

The introduction of local-level health performance reporting in Australia means this country has been able to benefit from the insights and efficiencies that have been available for many years in countries such as Canada, Sweden, the UK and the USA, which have all recognised the value of this type of reporting.

Australian case studies

The impacts of local-level public reporting in Australia tend to play out at the community level, in hospitals or in meetings of health managers and clinicians. In these cases, the positive influence of local-level performance reporting makes itself felt relatively quietly and inconspicuously, as health professionals engage with the report findings and work out the relevance and application they have for their own communities. However, some reporting has also led to legislative changes in Australia at the state and national level.

Case studies where local-level public reporting has either helped to drive change directly, or has provided an extra catalyst for positive changes that were already under way:

International examples

Local-level health performance reporting is a relatively new concept in Australia, but it has been present in several other countries for considerably longer periods of time. Because it takes time for changes to health practices to be implemented, and for those changes to be reflected in new data as it is collected, there is usually a time lag—often at least a few years—for any benefits from more detailed performance reporting to become apparent. But already evidence of significant benefits has emerged in research published overseas

International examples: