How many deaths occur in hospital?

In 2014–15, there were 76,856 admitted patient (see Box 1) deaths in hospital, accounting for about 50% of the 153,580 deaths in Australia in 2014 [1].

Hospital separations that ended in death (deaths in hospital) represented less than one per cent (0.7%) of all separations (10,366,142) (see Data source for clarification of counts of hospital separations in this spotlight). About 82% (63,043) of deaths in hospital occurred in public hospitals (Figure 1).

A further 4,916 patients died in emergency departments without the patient being admitted to the hospital. Deaths in emergency departments are not included in the following analyses.

Box 1: Understanding admitted patient care terms

This report draws on data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD). The NHMD is based on data provided to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) by state and territory health authorities for the National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) for Admitted patient care. It contains episode-level records from admitted patient morbidity data collection systems in Australian public and private hospitals and includes administrative, demographic and clinical data.

Admitted patient

An admitted patient is a patient who undergoes a hospital's formal admission process. Statistics on admitted patients are compiled when an admitted patient completes an episode of admitted patient care and 'separates' from the hospital. This is because most of the data on the use of hospitals by admitted patients are based on information provided at the end of the patients' episodes of care, rather than at the beginning. The length of stay and the procedures carried out are then known and the diagnostic information is more accurate.

Hospital separation

A hospital separation is the term used to refer to the episode of admitted patient care, which can be a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death) or a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute care to rehabilitation). 'Separation' also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care by being discharged, dying, transferring to another hospital or changing type of care.

Same-day separation

A same-day separation occurs when a patient is admitted to and separated from the hospital on the same date.

Overnight separation

An overnight separation occurs when a patient is admitted to and separated from the hospital on different dates.

Length of stay

Length of stay is measured using 'patient days'. The length of stay for an overnight patient is calculated by subtracting the date the patient is admitted from the date of separation and deducting days the patient was on leave (for example, went home for part of a day with the intention of return). A same-day patient is allocated a length of stay of 1 day.

Care type

The care type describes the overall nature of a clinical service provided to an admitted patient during an episode of care. The care type can be classified as:

  • Acute
  • Newborn
  • Sub-acute (Rehabilitation care, Palliative care, Geriatric evaluation and management, and Psychogeriatric care)
  • Non-acute (Maintenance care)
  • Other admitted patient care.

Figure 1: Proportion of deaths in hospital by hospital sector, 2014–15

This horizontal bar chart shows about 82%25 of deaths in hospital occurred in public hospitals and about 18%25 occur in private hospitals.

Source: National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD).