The Consumers Health Forum and Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association have issued a joint statement, saying that reports that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is considering cutting its Patient Experience Survey should be of concern to everybody who wants health policy based on evidence rather than anecdote.
The survey collects data on access and barriers to a range of health care services across the system including primary care, hospitals, pathology and diagnostic imaging. Here’s a sample questionnaire.
It’s at risk, according to this article by Fairfax economics writer Peter Martin, due to ongoing cuts from governments on both sides that have “dimmed the lights” at the ABS. Martin says a range of surveys are being pruned, including monthly retail sales survey as well as those on housing and lending finance, and a number on international trade. He said:
Many more surveys are up for axing altogether, unless user funding is secured, among them those on internet use, the experience of patients in hospitals, victims of crime, and the foreign ownership of agricultural businesses.
Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells said the Patient Experience Survey is an invaluable source of information about how people interact with the health system, which can track changes over time. She said:
“At a time when the Government is initiating some major reforms to the health system and we are looking to move towards a consumer centred health care system it is imperative that we have a solid evidence base to work from. We need more information on people’s experience of the health system not less.”
‘Without this survey and the data it provides, it will be difficult to gauge the impact of the reforms both now and into the future. Even if this is only seen as a short-term measure with the intent to perhaps re-instate it in the future, the value of the series will be significantly undermined.
‘Reducing the frequency will also have a negative impact on its value, particularly as we are in a fast-moving environment of change in health service delivery.”
Alison Verhoeven, AHHA Chief Executive said is is a “false economy” to end such valuable data collections on patient experience and access to a range of healthcare services at a time of multiple reform processes across the health sector.
“Without reliable data we have no way of monitoring the impact of reform, and could end up wasting limited financial resources along the way.’
‘A lot of people are putting time and effort into redesigning the system and they need to know that the changes are providing benefits to health consumers using the system—this would be a short-sighted move, given the patient-centred focus of the current reform processes.’