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Identifying healthcare variation

Across Australia, there are significant variations in the use of different types of health care for many conditions. Variation in healthcare use that reflects differences in the health of specific populations or patient preferences is expected and appropriate. However, substantially higher or lower rates of an intervention in different places can highlight areas where variation is unwarranted, raising concerns about equity and appropriateness of care.

The Healthcare Variation program includes work to identify variation in healthcare use nationally through publication of the Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation series. Maps of variation in care, derived from information routinely gathered by the health system, show how healthcare use differs across the country and raise important questions about why this variation might be occurring. The aim is to prompt further investigation into whether the observed variation reflects differences in people’s healthcare needs or in their informed choices, or whether it is unwarranted variation and represents an opportunity for the health system to improve.