How much admitted patient care was provided?

In 2017–18, there were 11.3 million separations (episodes of admitted patient care) in Australia's public and private hospitals—60% of these occurred in public hospitals.

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the number of separations rose by 3.8% on average each year—by 4.2% for public hospitals and by 3.3% for private hospitals. This was greater than the average growth in population over the same period (1.6% per year).

There were 30.2 million days of patient care reported for admitted patients—20.3 million in public hospitals and 10.0 million in private hospitals. Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the number of patient days rose by 2.1% on average each year.

Who used these services?

In 2017–18, people aged 65 and over (who make up about 15% of the population) accounted for 42% of separations and 49% of patient days.

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, separations for people aged 65 to 74 increased by 28%, an average increase of 6.3% each year. This was faster than the population growth for this age group during that period (about 4.1% each year).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 4.9% of separations (551,000) and they were hospitalised at 2.6 times the rate for other Australians.

Why did they receive care?

In public hospitals, 42% of separations were emergency admissions, while in private hospitals separations were more likely to be elective or other planned care (94%).

In 2017–18, public hospitals accounted for the majority of emergency admissions (92%) and childbirth separations (77%) and medical separations (77%). Private hospitals accounted for 80% of rehabilitation care, 59% of surgical separations and 58% of mental health care separations.

Of the 2.3 million separations involving elective surgery, 34% were in public hospitals and 66% in private hospitals.

In 2017–18, the most common group of conditions treated (apart from dialysis) was diseases of the digestive system—which accounted for 9% of separations (over 1.0 million).

In 2017–18, there were just under 308,000 newborn separations. The majority of these (82%) occurred in public hospitals. The most common principal diagnosis for newborns who had at least one day of specialised care was Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, not elsewhere classified. For newborns who did not have any days of specialised care, about 88% did not report any interventions.

How were patient admissions funded?

In 2017–18, in public hospitals 83% of separations (5.6 million) were for public patients. The remaining 17% of separations were funded by other sources—the majority (906,000, 13%) were for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission.

In contrast, 83% of separations in private hospitals were funded by private health insurance, 7% were self-funded and 4% were for public patients.

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the number of public patient separations rose by an average of 4.7% each year. Over the same period, the number of private health insurance-funded separations increased by 3.6% each year overall—by 4.6% in public hospitals and by 3.4% in private hospitals.

What was quality and experience of the care?

The median waiting time for public hospital elective surgery was 41 days overall—44 days for public patients and 22 days for patients who used private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission. There can be significant variations in waiting times depending on the type of procedure.

In 2017–18, about 2.0% of separations (185,000) experienced a potentially preventable complication.

Of these, 96,000 admissions had Healthcare-associated infections acquired in hospital. Other hospital-acquired complications included Cardiac complications, Delirium and Medication complications.

Between 2016–17 and 2017–18, Vaccine-preventable hospitalisations rose by 46.5%, reflecting large increases in admissions for Pneumonia and vaccine-preventable influenza in most states and territories. This agrees with the Australian Influenza Surveillance Report – 2017 Season Summary that found more than twice the typical number of people were admitted to hospital for influenza, due mostly to the low level of effectiveness of the 2017 seasonal influenza vaccine against the most common strain of the virus.