Care Track study reveals that Best Practices are often ignored
A major study called Care Track was released in 2012. It showed that Australians receive “appropriate” health care in only 57 per cent of medical consultations. This does not come as a surprise to this who work in the health industry.
Fragmented information systems, high stress work environments and over servicing of elderly people all play a role in this problem.
The landmark CareTrack study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found that although there were pockets of high quality in Australian health care, there was also unnecessary and unwarranted variations in clinical practice. Research teams from the University of New South Wales and the University of South Australia spent two years tracking actual medical care delivered to patients. Overall 1,150 patients were studied during 2009 – 2010, over 35,573 episodes of medical treatments.
Medical care was compared to ‘Best Practice Clinical Standards’. Major treatments were reviewed such as cardiac care, back pain, depression, asthma and stroke. The study showed substantial differences in different doctors practice. They also discovered substantial differences between different hospitals practice. And within different hospital, some did far better than others in consistently providing high levels of care. Some hospitals proved ‘Best Practice’ in 86% of patients care. Other hospitals achieved ‘Best Practice’ in only 32% of patient care.
The study concluded that barriers to more effective and uniform care were a lack of national clinical standards. The $2 million CareTrack research project was undertaken as one part of an $8.4 million National Health and Medical Research Council program grant, Patient safety; enabling and supporting change for a safer more effective health system, awarded in 2009.
Best Practice Clinical Guidelines are extremely difficult for patients to find. The National Health and Medical Research Council publishes a few, in highly academic format. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, a UK site has a much larger number, set out in far more organised and readable manner. In frustration at the lack of coordinated data, doctors have put together websites offering a large range of information on Best Practice. There is an Australian commercial site offering some guidelines. And there are doctors emergency and intensive care guidelines in blog format. This information should be on line, free and easily available for all patients to read.