Examining area-level variation in service organisation and delivery across the breadth of primary healthcare. Usefulness of measures constructed from routine data

Butler, D.C., Jorm, L.R., Larkins, S., Humphreys, J., Desborough, J., and Korda, K.J. (2021) Examining area-level variation in service organisation and delivery across the breadth of primary healthcare. Usefulness of measures constructed from routine data. PLoS ONE, 16 (12). e0260615.

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Australia has a universal healthcare system, yet organisation and delivery of primary healthcare (PHC) services varies across local areas. Understanding the nature and extent of this variation is essential to improve quality of care and health equity, but this has been hampered by a lack of suitable measures across the breadth of effective PHC systems. Using a suite of measures constructed at the area-level, this study explored their application in assessing area-level variation in PHC organisation and delivery. Routinely collected data from New South Wales, Australia were used to construct 13 small area-level measures of PHC service organisation and delivery that best approximated access (availability, affordability, accommodation) comprehensiveness and coordination. Regression analyses and pairwise Pearson’s correlations were used to examine variation by area, and by remoteness and area disadvantage. PHC service delivery varied geographically at the small-area level–within cities and more remote locations. Areas in major cities were more accessible (all measures), while in remote areas, services were more comprehensive and coordinated. In disadvantaged areas of major cities, there were fewer GPs (most disadvantaged quintile 0.9[SD 0.1] vs least 1.0[SD 0.2]), services were more affordable (97.4%[1.6] bulk-billed vs 75.7[11.3]), a greater proportion were after-hours (10.3%[3.0] vs 6.2[2.9]) and for chronic disease care (28%[3.4] vs 17.6[8.0]) but fewer for preventive care (50.7%[3.8] had cervical screening vs 62.5[4.9]). Patterns were similar in regional locations, other than disadvantaged areas had less after-hours care (1.3%[0.7] vs 6.1%[3.9]). Measures were positively correlated, except GP supply and affordability in major cities (-0.41, p < .01). Application of constructed measures revealed inequity in PHC service delivery amenable to policy intervention. Initiatives should consider the maldistribution of GPs not only by remoteness but also by area disadvantage. Avenues for improvement in disadvantaged areas include preventative care across all regions and after-hours care in regional locations.

Item ID: 72727
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2021 Butler et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC)
Projects and Grants: NHMRC GNT1038903
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2022 00:53
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420319 Primary health care @ 50%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420321 Rural and remote health services @ 50%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2005 Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) > 200508 Rural and remote area health @ 100%
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