Identifying variations in quality of care in Queensland hospitals Academic Article uri icon


  • Identifying and acting on variations from good practice is one of the critical tasks of clinical governance. We describe one aspect of Queensland's post-Bundaberg clinical governance arrangements: the use of variable life-adjusted displays (VLADs) to monitor outcomes of care in the 87 largest public and private hospitals in Queensland, which together account for 83% of all hospital activity. VLAD control charts were created for 31 clinical indicators using routinely collected data, and are disseminated monthly. About a third of hospitals had a run of cases in the 3-year period that flagged at the 30% level (local level investigation). For three indicators, about one in five hospitals had sufficiently cumulatively more deaths than statistically expected that the hospital was highlighted for state-wide review. VLADs do not provide definitive answers about the quality of care. They are used to develop ideas about why variations in reported outcomes occur and suggest possible solutions, be they ways of improving data quality, improving casemix adjustment, or implementing system changes to improve quality of care. Critical to the approach is that there is not just monitoring - the monitoring is tied in with systems that ensure that investigation, learning and action occur as a result of a flag.

publication date

  • November 19, 2007