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Problems with Data Transparency and Quality Measurements in Austrian Healthcare System Highlighted by Corona Crisis

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An article published in highlights the lack of access to medical data in Austria that became more apparent due to the corona crisis, but illustrates that transparency and quality measurements have played a less prominent role in the Austrian healthcare system than in other countries. A lack of access to data for science is one result; another is too little detail in data collection.

The system for measuring the quality of in-patient hospital stays in Austria since 2013 is through quality indicators, A-IQIs (Austrian Inpatient Quality Indicators), which are continuously recorded on the basis of diagnoses and forms of treatment. The elements measured include the mortality rates, complication rates and care progress. As a basis for the calculation of the indicators the system uses data that hospitals need to collect in any case to invoice their services, i.e. routine data. One of the reasons for choosing this solution is that hospitals already have very extensive documentation requirements and hence staff were not to be burdened even more.

A disadvantage to this system of measurement is the A-IQIs are about measuring the quality of results, but there is no general agreement as to what ‘results’ means and which standard levels they are to be measured against. In addition, the hospital cases are recorded in relatively loose categories. In Germany more or less the same system exists, but it is more detailed. As a result, Austrian mortality data cannot be compared with those from Germany, thus making it more difficult to achieve learning effects, because measurements are not selective enough.

Another aspect of the current system that outside experts often criticize is the lack of documentation as to how different service providers in the healthcare system cooperate. The Austrian healthcare system still does not systematically analyse the development of medical histories after an inpatient stay.

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