Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Identifying areas of need relative to liver disease: geographic clustering within a health service district

Nathan El-Atem A B C , Katharine M. Irvine D , Patricia C. Valery E , Kyle Wojcik D , Leigh Horsfall D F , Tracey Johnson G , Monika Janda A , Steven M. McPhail A B C * and Elizabeth E. Powell D F H *

A Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, 60 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Qld 4059, Australia. Email: nathan.elatem@uqconnect.edu.au; m.janda@qut.edu.au; steven.mcphail@qut.edu.au

B School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Qld 4059, Australia.

C Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Metro South Health, PO Box 6053, Buranda, Qld 4102, Australia.

D Centre for Liver Disease Research, The University of Queensland, Translational Research Institute, 37 Kent Street, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia. Email: katharine.irvine@uq.edu.au; kyle.wojcik@uq.net.au

E QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. 300 Herston Road, Herston, Qld 4006, Australia. Email: Patricia.Valery@qimrberghofer.edu.au

F Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia. Email: Leigh.Horsfall@health.qld.gov.au

G Inala Primary Care, 64 Wirraway Parade, Inala, Qld 4077, Australia. Email: tjohnson@inalaprimarycare.com.au

H Corresponding author. Email: e.powell@uq.edu.au

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH15225
Submitted: 11 December 2015  Accepted: 20 June 2016   Published online: 11 August 2016

Abstract

Background Many people with chronic liver disease (CLD) are not detected until they present to hospital with advanced disease, when opportunities for intervention are reduced and morbidity is high. In order to build capacity and liver expertise in the community, it is important to focus liver healthcare resources in high-prevalence disease areas and specific populations with an identified need. The aim of the present study was to examine the geographic location of people seen in a tertiary hospital hepatology clinic, as well as ethnic and sociodemographic characteristics of these geographic areas.

Methods The geographic locations of hepatology out-patients were identified via the out-patient scheduling database and grouped into statistical area (SA) regions for demographic analysis using data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Results During the 3-month study period, 943 individuals from 71 SA Level 3 regions attended clinic. Nine SA Level 3 regions accounted for 55% of the entire patient cohort. Geographic clustering was seen especially for people living with chronic hepatitis B virus. There was a wide spectrum of socioeconomic advantage and disadvantage in areas with high liver disease prevalence.

Conclusions The geographic area from which people living with CLD travel to access liver health care is extensive. However, the greatest demand for tertiary liver disease speciality care is clustered within specific geographic areas. Outreach programs targeted to these areas may enhance liver disease-specific health service resourcing.

What is known about the topic? The demand for tertiary hospital clinical services in CLD is rising. However, there is limited knowledge about the geographic areas from which people living with CLD travel to access liver services, or the ethnic, socioeconomic and education characteristics of these areas.

What does this paper add? The present study demonstrates that a substantial proportion of people living with CLD and accessing tertiary hospital liver services are clustered within specific geographic areas. The most striking geographic clustering was seen for people living with chronic hepatitis B, in regions with a relatively high proportion of people born in Vietnam and China. In addition to ethnicity, the data show an apparent ecological association between liver disease and both socioeconomic and educational and/or occupational disadvantage.

What are the implications for practitioners? Identifying where demand for clinical services arises is an important step for service planning and preparing for potential outreach programs to optimise community-based care. It is likely that outreach programs to engage and enhance primary care services in geographic areas from which the greatest demand for tertiary liver disease speciality care arises would yield greater relative return on investment than non-targeted outreach programs.


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