The Australian health sector is a complex combination of public and private healthcare services. Because of this, it is highly fragmented. This is exacerbated by the fact that funding comes from a range of public and private sources.
Fragmented services result in fragmented data collection – something which is highly detrimental to continuity of care between different providers and can lead to adverse health outcomes.
Nancy has already seen three different health service providers about her hip pain – a GP, a radiologist and a specialist. If she needs a hip replacement, she will then need to go to a public or private hospital. Within the hospital she would see a pathologist, and possibly a radiologist again, before her surgery. As part of her post-operative care, she may then go to a rehabilitation centre, or use the services of a physiotherapist.
Data sharing between primary healthcare providers and hospitals is currently limited.
If a patient chooses to go to a private hospital for one health problem and to a public hospital for another, there is no automatic sharing of data between the two hospitals.
This is also the case in the public hospital system. When a patient goes to different public hospitals in different jurisdictions, there is no data sharing between the hospitals.
At present, no service provider or healthcare organisation has access to an individual’s complete health profile – even if the individual is willing to share data to support continuity of care.
Service fragmentation isn’t simply inconvenient. It’s expensive for patients, and it has the potential to be harmful too.
The piecemeal nature of healthcare services is shown below, and provides a sense of the many different entities consumers have to deal with. Underneath, the map provides a snapshot of the healthcare services available in each state in Australia.