How does Australia’s health system stack up internationally? Not bad, if you’re willing to wait for it

We are told that our health system is one of the best in the world when things go wrong. We are rarely informed of our actual position in comparison to other countries.

The report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows Australia’s relative success and its shortcomings. The information has more than 200 pages and dozens of charts, tables, and graphs.

We have highlighted five charts that show Australia’s relative performance. Australia’s healthcare system is generally good, but it can be slow to respond. Our use of antibiotics has been trending in the wrong direction.

  • Spending less than the average but living longer.

Australia’s health system is not unsustainable, despite the rhetoric. Australia, marked by the red dot on the map of health expenditure versus life expectancy, is in the top quadrant. This has been the case for over a decade.

The United States, on the other hand, has significantly higher expenditures than countries with lower life expectancy.

This measure of life expectancy assumes implicitly that the main impact on life is the health system. However, this is not the case. It is still a good indicator of the system’s overall performance and, when combined with expenditure, provides a good measurement.

  • The majority of Australians rate their health as very good or good.

Australia is better than other countries in this regard, as the vast majority of Australians (about 85%) rate their health as good or excellent. Good health and good healthcare are often conflated, but the data shows that Australia has more doctors than most other countries.

In its founding charter, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that “Health is not only the absence of diseases, but also a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing. “This shows a problem in the relationship between health and health professionals. It is no surprise that the WHO’s focus on wellbeing helps explain why, when looking at countries, it doesn’t seem to be a major determinant for performance in self-rated health.

  • The aged care bed is harder to come by.

Around 30% of the population in OECD nations is over 65 years old, while Australia has a proportion of about 20%. Over-65s are increasing in number everywhere.

The majority of Australians aged 65 and older (14%) receive home care. Monitoring access to residential aged care (represented by the number of long-term beds per 1,000 population over 65 years old) could act as a “canary in a coal mine,” highlighting access problems.

Australia’s access to aged-care beds has decreased by 27% from 2011 to 2021. This is concerning because we started in the middle, and it probably leads to more Australians staying in acute hospitals rather than in more suitable care facilities. This “entry block” leads to ramping problems for ambulances.

  • Australians are waiting too long to get hip replacements at public hospitals.

In most publicly funded healthcare systems, long waiting periods are common for planned procedures like hip replacements. As part of the efficient scheduling of operating theatres, some waiting is expected. Long waits in public hospitals, particularly when a patient is in pain, are a poor reflection of the management of the system.

Data shows that two-thirds of Australians who waited for hip replacement surgery waited longer than three months. This is slightly worse than the OECD average. Our performance is declining.

Efficiency Improvements in Public Hospitals or strategies for improving the performance of the planned procedures system have been developed by a number of states, including Victoria, to address this issue.

Understandably, plans were affected in the first few years by the COVID-19 epidemic. However, governments should adapt their funding and provision system to bring waiting time back to pre-pandemic standards.

  • Antibiotics are being used in an inappropriate way

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives.

The worldwide campaigns to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics are paying off. Antibiotic use is declining in all OECD countries.

Australia’s trends are, unfortunately, in the opposite direction.


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