Objectives: To determine whether hospital patients identified as Indigenous are less likely than other inpatients to have a principal procedure recorded, and the extent to which any disparity in procedure use can be explained by differences in patient, episode and hospital characteristics.
Design: Retrospective analysis of routinely collected administrative data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD).
Setting: Australian public and private hospitals.
Patients: All patients included in the NHMD whose episode type was recorded as acute and whose separation occurred between 1 July 1997 and 30 June 1998. Patients admitted for routine dialysis treatment were excluded.
Main outcome measure: Whether a principal procedure was recorded.
Results: In public hospitals, patients identified as Indigenous were significantly less likely than other patients to have a principal procedure recorded, even after adjusting for patient, episode and hospital characteristics (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.67; 95% CI, 0.66-0.68). This disparity was apparent for most diseases and conditions. In private hospitals, no significant difference was observed (adjusted OR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.83-1.06).
Conclusions: The disparity in procedure use after adjustment for relevant factors indicates that in Australian public hospitals there may be systematic differences in the treatment of patients identified as Indigenous.