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Quality improvement closing the gap, saving money in indigenous health

9 October 2017
How research is helping to close the gap

The use of continuous quality improvement activities raises the quality and quantity of preventive healthcare delivered to Indigenous Australians, University of Sydney research reveals.

The finding published in today’s BMJ Open is critical for closing the gap in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians says Professor Ross Bailie of the University of Sydney, who led the research.

“The economic benefit of the CQI program to improve diabetes care alone in 2012 was estimated to be $15 million to the NT and $99 million value to the rest of Australia. The economic benefits of the CQI program are likely to be several times greater than this as a result of improved care across preventive and maternal health.

We need a sustained and committed approach by policy makers ... if we are to see better health outcomes.
Professor Ross Bailie, University of Sydney

“So not only do we see improved health outcomes but it also makes good economic sense for Governments to ensure strong policy in the area of CQI and ensure regional support structures to support its implementation – as we have seen in the NT.

“Having health centres apply continuous quality improvement, which is a systematic way of using data to guide changes to how primary health care is organised, structured, or designed, has been shown to be a good way to improve healthcare,” Professor Bailie says.

“The Northern Territory Government has had an especially strong commitment to implementing continuous quality improvement policies and support structures.

“The good news in the Northern Territory is that for health services that participated in continuous quality improvement, the delivery of care improved.”

The research reported a 25 per cent improvement in preventive care, a ten per cent improvement in Type 2 Diabetes care and improvements in child healthcare.

The new finding comes on the back of news that, with some exceptions, primary health care is failing to deliver adequate preventive health care to Indigenous Australians who experience higher levels of ill health than non-Indigenous people.

The Australian Government is currently implementing a National CQI Framework for Indigenous primary healthcare services.

“The findings have important implications for the implementation of this framework,” says Professor Bailie.

“We need a sustained and committed approach by policy makers, matched with systematic regional support for health services is required if we are to see better health outcomes.” 

Dan Gaffney

Media & PR Adviser (Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy)