Healthcare Variation

What is Healthcare Variation?

Clinical variation is a difference in healthcare processes or outcomes, compared to peers or to a gold standard such as an evidence-based guideline recommendation. For example, a higher or lower rate of a particular treatment in one area compared with another.

Some variation is expected and associated with need-related factors such as underlying differences in the health of specific populations, or personal preferences. If the variation does not reflect these factors however, it may be unwarranted and represents an opportunity for the system to improve.

Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation series

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 using data to map the use of health care according to where people live. Each Atlas identifies specific achievable actions for exploration and quality improvement.

Read more about the Atlas series here and view each Atlas via the links below.

          First Atlas (2015)

         Second Atlas (2017)

         Third Atlas (2018)

Atlas 1 (2015) map image
Uploaded Atlas 2 (2017) map image
Atlas 2 (2018) map image

NSQHS Standards: Action 1.28 on clinical variation

The value of monitoring clinical variation is now reflected in the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. Developed by the Commission in collaboration with the Australian Government, states and territories, the private sector, clinical experts, patients and carers, the NSQHS Standards aim to protect the public from harm and to improve the quality of health service provision.

The Clinical Governance Standard: Action 1.28 variation in clinical practice requires health service organisations to have systems in place that use data to monitor variation in care to identify unwarranted variation and to regularly review and improve the appropriateness of clinical care.

Read more on the Action1.28 here 

Healthcare Variation and the Clinical Care Standards

In response to findings from the Atlas series, the Commission has developed several Clinical Care Standards (CCS). CCS are statements that describe the care patients should be offered by health professionals and health services for a specific clinical condition or defined clinical pathway in line with current best evidence These include the Cataract CCS, Colonoscopy CCS, Heavy Menstrual Bleeding CCS, Osteoarthritis of the Knee CCS and the Third and Fourth Degree Perineal Tears CCS.

Read more on the CCS here.

Conference 2020

The Commission will be hosting a conference on healthcare variation and informed care in July 2020 in Sydney. More information to come.