Care Track Kids study results

A landmark national study led by the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University on the standard of healthcare for children in Australia has found children receive care in line with clinical practice guideline recommendations on average 60 percent of the time for 17 common medical conditions.

The CareTrack Kids study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association evaluated care for 6,689 children under 16 years of age, and involved 139 healthcare providers across the country.

The study looked at how often care was given in line with clinical practice guideline recommendations, and found that there was substantial variation in adherence to these guidelines depending on the clinical condition.

For example, on average, there was 89 percent adherence for the management of autism, but 44 percent for tonsillitis. Asthma was another condition examined where overall compliance was not high, at 58 percent.

Guidelines for the management of asthma recommend that each child receive a written action plan.

However, this study found that only 47 percent of children who were prescribed an asthma preventer were also provided with a plan, in contrast to the 92 percent of children who received a plan following hospitalisation due to an asthma flare-up.

For diabetes, head injury, ADHD, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and depression, there was an estimated adherence to guidelines greater than 70 percent.

A health system that delivers a higher overall adherence rate, up to around 90 percent, would most of the time lead to better outcomes for patients and more effective use of resources.

The original CareTrack Australia study in adults was published in 2012 and found that Australian adults receive appropriate healthcare in 57 percent of consultations for 22 conditions.

“With the release of these results, we need to reflect on how we can improve the healthcare system. Clinicians want to do their best for all their patients and we need to modify the system to help them achieve this goal,” said Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, lead author of CareTrack Kids and Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University.

“We also recognise that guidelines should not be followed slavishly all the time. There are always exceptions. We suggest several improvements to the health system, including advancing the design of electronic medical records, to give clinicians ready access to real-time information,” Prof Braithwaite said.