AIHW news

Release of The last year of life: patterns in health service use and expenditure

The article was originally posted on LinkedIn by Richard Juckes, Head of the Population Health Group

I’m really pleased to see our new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) publication released today ‘The last year of life: patterns in health service use and expenditure’. It’s the first study of its kind to comprehensively examine health services used by Australians in the final 12 months of life and the cost of those services to the health system.  

Over 161,000 people died in Australia in 2020, and each death has wide-reaching impacts on families, friends and communities. Understanding how people interact with the Australian health system in the period leading up to death provides vital information on health care provision, which is essential for assessing and evaluating health service planning and policy.

Until now it has been hard to get a picture of how people are interacting with the health system because of the fragmented nature of our health service data. But advances in linked data are finally making it possible to see these patient journeys through the health system. This study was made possible by using deidentified linked health and aged care administrative data from the AIHW’s National Integrated Health Services Information Analysis Asset (NIHSI AA).

The report looks at hospital admissions, emergency department presentations, services provided under the Medicare Benefits Schedule and prescriptions supplied under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits.

The report shows that:

  • nearly all Australians use health services in their last year of life
  • 8% of health expenditure examined was for people in their last year of life,
  • overall, the average annual cost for the 4 health services combined for people in the last year of life was 14 times as high as for people not in their last year of life.  

Average annual costs for people in the last year of life varied by age, sex, cause of death and whether people had used residential aged care services. Of the leading causes of death in Australia, costs were highest for people dying from cancer.

The findings presented in this new report help to fill a major evidence gap in an area with growing policy relevance in Australia, particularly in the context of population growth, ageing, increased longevity, a growing economy and increased spending on health.  

Read the full report and explore the data visualisations on health service use and associated expenditure by sex, age, service type, cause of death, and use of residential aged care:

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