Data from Australian Hospitals

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) recently released a number of  reports providing statistics on Australian hospitals.

Australia’s hospitals 2016-17 at a glance provides an overview of public and private hospitals and services provided to the Australian community. Companion hospital statistics reports present further detail on Hospital resources 2016-17Admitted patient care 2016-17 and Non-admitted patient care 2016-17.

The information in the reports is based on data provided to the AIHW by state and territory health authorities for the National minimum data set (NMDS). As the name implies, a NMDS is a minimum set of data elements agreed for mandatory collection and reporting at a national level. As such, a NMDS is dependent on a national agreement to collect and supply uniform data. 

The National Health Information Agreement (NHIA) is that agreement. The current NHIA between the Australian Government and state/territory government health authorities commenced in October 2013.  Established to coordinate health information in Australia, including national data standards, the agreement also includes a commitment to co-operate through the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) which is the advisory body to the COAG Health Council.

The description of the characteristics of data is called ‘metadata’, often said to be ‘data about data’. By allowing those collecting and using data to have a common understanding of underlying features, metadata leads to better data. The repository for Australian national metadata standards for the health, community services and housing assistance sectors was developed by the AIHW and is known as METeOR.

AIHW’s National Hospitals Data Collection is comprised of six major databases with acronyms to match! One such national data set is the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) which is the collection of electronic, confidential summary records for admitted patients from public and private hospitals in Australia each financial year from 1993-94 and ongoing.

An excellent service is the public availability of interactive cubes of data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database. For example, the principal diagnosis cube (most recent 2015-16 to 2016-17) includes information on the number of same day and overnight separations (discharges), patient days and average length of stay, by age group and sex and year of separation, for each diagnosis. It can take some trial and error to produce the information you are after in a suitable format, but well worth the effort.