Sir Andrew Dillon on the nature of variation

1 Sep 2016

‘Variation: the good, the bad and the inexplicable’ was the topic of the latest Open Forum: International Speaker Series event held in Wellington on 30 August 2016.

Speakers included the chief executive of NICE, Sir Andrew Dillon, who talked by video about the nature of variation and how health systems can reduce it. He considered in turn the causes of variation, including human fragility, exercise of personal choice, uncertainly in the evidence base, variable access to resources, lack of knowledge, sub optimal skills, and the life chances we are born with.

He also talked about how evidence can help to reduce unwarranted variation, inform investment and treatment decisions, and the need for a common shared evidence base.

Sir Andrew believes that without a strong evidence base we can’t make the decisions that get the best outcomes, and have consistency in decisions across health care systems.

“If we can say to patients... here’s what seems to be the best approach, potentially using patient decision aids to help inform that conversation, they will leave the engagement with us as health professionals at the very least confident that we have done the best for them, even if they remain uncertain and anxious about where their treatment is going to take them and ultimately what their outcomes are going to be.”

Sir Andrew says evidence also enables us to measure and compare: by extracting standards and indicators from the evidence base we can make sure we know what it is we are doing, and be confident using those standards that we are doing the right thing.

He says health professionals commit to doing the very best for patients.

“That means knowing what the best for individual patients is likely to be, sharing that information with them, enabling them to join in the decision making and to do that consistently patient-to-patient, organisation-to-organisation, week-to-week, year-to-year. That way we can help to reduce variation and be confident that we are doing the very best for our patients.”

For Sir Andrew’s full presentation and other presentations from the day, please click the link below.

Last updated 02/09/2016