Safety and Quality > Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

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The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has released the first Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation, illuminating variation in health care provision across Australia.

The atlas presents a clear picture of substantial variation in healthcare use across Australia, across areas such as antibiotic prescribing, surgical, mental health and diagnostic services.

Some variation is expected and associated with need-related factors such as underlying differences in the health of specific populations, or personal preferences. However, the weight of evidence in Australia and internationally suggests that much of the variation documented in the atlas is likely to be unwarranted. Understanding this variation is critical to improving the quality, value and appropriateness of health care.

Six clinical areas are examined in the atlas, covering prescribing, diagnostic, medical and surgical interventions. Priority areas for investigation and action include the use of antimicrobials and psychotropic medicines; variation in rates of fibre optic colonoscopy, knee arthroscopy, hysterectomy and endometrial ablation; and inequitable access to cataract surgery.

The Australian Commission collaborated with the Australian, state and territory governments, specialist medical colleges, clinicians and consumer representatives to develop the atlas.

It is the first time that data from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set (APC NMDS) have all been used to explore variation across different healthcare settings. The atlas is presented alongside the first national recommendations for action.

Follow the links below to access the data items within each chapter or to download the full version of the Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation. You can view local area data by clicking on the Excel files in each chapter.

Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation data set specifications are available at