Safety and Quality > Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation

Interactive Atlas

Mapping variation is an invaluable tool for understanding how our healthcare system is providing care. The Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation series illuminates variation by mapping use of health care according to where people live.  Each Atlas identifies specific achievable actions for exploration and quality improvement.

Healthcare Variation – what does it tell us

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.

View the Atlas

The second Atlas, released in June 2017, examines four clinical themes: chronic disease and infection – potentially preventable hospitalisations, cardiovascular, women’s health and maternity, and surgical interventions.

Key findings and recommendations for action are available here.

View the maps and download the data using the interactive platform.

The first Atlas, released in November 2015, examines six clinical themes covering prescribing, diagnostic, medical and surgical interventions.

Key findings and recommendations for action are available here.

View the maps and download the data using the interactive platform.

What does the Atlas measure?

The Atlas shows rates of use of health care (hospitalisations, prescriptions, surgical procedures) in geographical local areas across Australia.  The rate is age and sex standardised to allow comparisons between populations with different age and sex structures. All rates are based on the patient’s place of residence, not the location of the hospital or health service.

The Atlas series uses data from a range of national data sources to explore variation across different healthcare settings. These have included the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the National Hospital Morbidity Database [Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set (APC NMDS)] and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Perinatal Data Collection.

The geographic local areas used are Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) standard geographical regions known as Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3). SA3s provide a standardised regional breakup to assist in analysing data at the regional level. A number of items are mapped at the larger Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4).