Hospital activity

Public and private hospitals provide a range of services, including emergency department care, elective surgery and outpatient care. This section provides an overview of activity in public and private hospitals in the most recent year of data available, and trends in the number of services they provided in the preceding 5 years.

Explore more information about hospital activity via the links at the bottom of the page.

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How is hospital activity measured?

Hospital activity is measured by the number of services provided by hospitals. These include:

  • Hospitalisations in public and private hospitals for admitted patient care
  • Presentations to public hospital emergency departments
  • Service events for non-admitted patient in public hospitals
  • Admissions from elective surgery waiting lists in public hospitals.

Overall, activity in all sectors of the Australian hospital system is increasing, reflecting an increasing demand for services.

Hospitalisations

In 2018–19, there were 11.5 million hospitalisations in Australia.

Hospitalisations have risen by an average of 3.3% per year between 2014–15 and 2018–19. This year-on-year increase is greater than the average growth in Australia’s population over the same period (1.1%).

The average annual growth over this period was greater for public hospitals (3.7%) than for private hospitals (2.6%).

Same-day hospitalisations (where the patient does not stay overnight) have risen faster than overnight hospitalisations, largely due to increases in same-day hospitalisations for sub-acute and non-acute care. Per 1,000 population, same-day hospitalisations rose, on average, 2.7% per year in public hospitals and 1.0% in private hospitals. In contrast, overnight hospitalisations rose, on average, 0.5% per year in public hospitals and fell 1.1% per year in private hospitals.

Admissions from elective surgery waiting lists have risen 2.1% per year, on average, between 2014–15 and 2018–19.

Emergency department presentations

Each day in Australia, 23,000 people seek treatment in public hospital emergency departments. This figure has increased from 20,000 in the 5 years from 2014–15 to 2018–19—or 3.2% per year. Almost 80% of these presentations occur between 8am and 10pm.

Presentations have increased at a greater rate than population growth over this period, rising from 310 to 329 presentations per 1,000 population.

In 2018–19, 1 in 4 (25%) patients sought treatment for injury and poisoning-related diagnoses, and 1 in 8 (12%) for a circulatory or respiratory disorder.

The most common diagnoses were Abdominal and pelvic pain, Pain in throat and chest, Injury of unspecified body region, Viral infection of unspecified site and Soft tissue disorders.  One in 8 (12%) of patients who were admitted to hospital after presenting to the emergency department, were diagnosed with Abdominal or pelvic pain or Pain in throat or chest.

Non-admitted patient services

Non-admitted patient services are provided by outpatient clinics in Australia’s public hospitals. These services include patients seeing specialist medical practitioners or allied health practitioners, or having diagnostic or other procedures. In 2018–19, 39 million service events were provided in outpatient clinics. Of these:

  • 46% (17.9 million) were in allied health and/or clinical nurse specialist intervention clinics
  • 29% (11.1 million) were in medical consultation clinics
  • 16% (6.4 million) were for diagnostic services
  • 8% (3.3 million) were in procedural clinics.

Where do I find more information?

More information, Appendixes and caveat information, and data tables are available in the Info & downloads section.

Definitions of the terms used in this section are available in the Glossary.