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Public performance reporting and hospital choice: a cross-sectional study of patients undergoing cancer surgery in the Australian private healthcare sector

27 Apr 2018


National mandatory public performance reporting (PPR) for Australian public hospitals, including measures of cancer surgery waiting times, was introduced in 2011. PPR is voluntary for private hospitals. The aims of this study were to assess whether PPR of hospital data is used by patients with breast, bowel or lung cancer when selecting a hospital for elective surgery and how PPR could be improved to meet their information needs.


A national cross-sectional postal questionnaire.


Australian private healthcare sector.


Private patients with breast, bowel or lung cancer who attended a public or private hospital for elective surgery (n=243) in 2016.

Outcome measures

Patients’ choice of hospital, use of PPR information and preferred areas of PPR information. Descriptive and conventional qualitative content analyses were conducted.


Two hundred and twenty-eight respondents (94%) attended a private hospital. Almost half could choose a hospital. Choice of hospital was not influenced by PPR data (92% unaware) but by their specialist (90%). Respondents considered PPR to be important (71%) but they did not want to see the information, preferring their general practitioners (GPs) to tell them about it (40%). Respondents considered surgery costs (59%), complications (58%) and recovery success rates (57%) to be important areas of information that should be publicly reported. Almost half suggested that quality indicators should be reported at the individual clinician level. Analysis of the open-ended questions identified four themes: (1) decision-making factors; (2) data credibility; (3) unmet information needs and (4) unintended consequences.


PPR of hospital data had no substantial impact on patients’ choice of hospital. Nonetheless, many respondents expressed interest in using it in future. To increase PPR awareness and usability, personalised and integrated information on cost and quality of hospitals is required. Dissemination of PPR information via specialists and GPs could assist patients to interpret the data and support decision-making.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open