How much activity was there?

The main measure of admitted patient care provided in Australian hospitala is the number of hospitalisations, or episodes of admitted patient care. Because hospitalisations can vary in length, another useful measure is patient days—the total number of days spent in hospital by patients, or days of patient care.

In 2017–18, there were 11.3 million hospitalisations—6.7 million in public hospitals and 4.5 million in private hospitals. 

Same-day episodes accounted for 53% of hospitalisations in public hospitals (3.6 million) and 71% in private hospitals (3.2 million).

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, hospitalisations:

  • increased by an average of 3.8% each year, faster than the average population growth of 1.6% over the same period
  • increased by an average of 4.2% each year in public hospitals and by 3.3% in private hospitals
  • for same-day care, increased by an average of 4.7% each year, compared with 2.4% for overnight care.

Days of patient care (Patient days)

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the number of patient days:

  • increased by an average of 2.1% each year, from 27.9 million to 30.2 million
  • in private hospitals increased by 2.5%
  • in private hospitals accounted for about one-third of all patient days over this period.

See the data visualisation below for more information on patient days, same-day and overnight hospitalisations.

Length of stay

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the average length of stay in public and private hospitals decreased:

  • from 3.3 to 3.0 days in public hospitals
  • from 2.3 to 2.2 days in private hospitals.

In 2017–18, for patients who spent at least 1 night in hospital, the average length of stay was 5.4 days in public hospitals and 5.2 days in private hospitals.

The overnight average length of stay was higher for emergency admissions for acute care compared with planned acute care:

  • 4.2 days in public hospitals and 3.4 days in private hospitals for non-emergency acute care
  • 5.7 days in public hospitals and 6.4 days in private hospitals for emergency acute care.

How does Australia compare?

The number of overnight separations per 1,000 population in Australia for 2017–18 (166) was in the middle of the range reported for organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in recent years (see visualisation at top of page). See the data visualisation in the Admitted patient care section for more information about OECD comparisons. 

Differences in definitions of hospitals, collection periods and admission practices are likely to affect the comparability of international hospitalisation rates.

Where to go for more information

For more information on numbers of hospitalisations and days of patient care, see Chapter 2 of Admitted patient care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics.

For more information on length of stay, see chapters 2 and 4 of Admitted patient care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics.

For more international comparisons, see chapters 2 and 6 of Admitted patient care 2017–18: Australian hospital statistics.