Objective: This study sought to estimate and observe the risks imposed on patients as they travel to hospital for referred treatment. Factors such as distance and remoteness were compared to understand how they affect this risk.
Methods: This study focused on Queensland residents attending specialist out-patient appointments in a Queensland public hospital throughout 2016. Deidentified information on all recipients of a specialist out-patient appointment in 2016 (n = 2 946 584) were included in the study. This study also contained a theoretical component: using a data model to estimate the number of fatalities that could be expected from a travelling population of this size and complexity. The modelling results were compared with the frequency of actual fatalities among individuals travelling to receive treatment, as determined by a review of the Queensland Police Road Database. The data model and empirical values from police reports were used to independently measure what risk, if any, individuals travelling to obtain specialist out-patient treatment are exposed to. Differences between the model and observed values were evaluated using statistical tests.
Results: A direct relationship between increasing remoteness and travel risk was established in both the model and observed data (CV(RMSD) = 0.660773).
Conclusion: Fatal risk is present in any road journey regardless of distance, duration or the purpose of travel. Individuals living in regional and remote Queensland are exposed to a larger risk than those living in the major cities of Queensland when travelling to obtain public health care.
What is already known on this subject?: Road safety remains one of Australia's most serious public health issues, with 1295 road-related fatalities recorded throughout Australia in 2016. Although the potential dangers of road travel are well understood, extended journeys by road to attend hospital appointments are often undertaken despite available alternatives to travel in some instances.
What this paper adds?: Travelling to attend medical appointments exposes a patient to a small but potentially catastrophic risk that can be observed in state road crash data. This risk is measurably greater for individuals in regional Queensland.
What are the implications for practitioners?: Clinical models of care that reduce patient travel may represent a new standard in patient safety when of the risks associated travel are considered.