In 2003, a Rural Health Information Framework was established to help understand and to monitor the health of regional and remote populations. Indicators were identified across three areas: health status and outcomes; health determinants; and health system performance. This report publishes selected indicators relating to health system performance. A complementary report focusing on indicators of health status and determinants of health was published in March 2008.

The indicators presented here illustrate differences between Australia’s health system performance in rural and major urban centres.

In regards to effectiveness

Compared with Major Cities, participation in breast cancer screening among women in the target age group (50–69 years) was significantly higher in all, except Very Remote, areas.

Indigenous Australian women were significantly less likely to participate in breast screening than non-Indigenous women, but rates of Indigenous participation have increased over time.

In regards to appropriateness

With the exception of dialysis, hospitalisation rates for common procedures were significantly lower for people living in Remote areas than for those living in Major Cities.

In particular, separation rates for procedures used in the management of heart disease were significantly lower for people living in Remote areas. This finding is particularly noteworthy as death rates from coronary heart disease were significantly higher in these areas.

The provision of aged care places and support packages was above the planning target ratio in all, except Major City and Outer Regional areas.

In regards to accessibility

The per-person supply of employed medical practitioners and dentists decreased with remoteness. The supply of nurses and general practitioners was more evenly distributed across regions.

People living in remote areas had higher rates of hospitalisation than those living in Major Cities.

Prescription rates were slightly higher in regional areas and lower in remote areas for the majority of pharmaceutical groups analysed.

In 2005–06, people with disability living outside Major Cities were significantly less likely to access disability support services than those living within Major Cities.

In regards to capability, safety and sustainability

Hospitals outside Major Cities were less likely to be accredited. However, this may partly reflect the varied, and sometimes voluntary, accreditation practices across jurisdictions.