One in every nine patients who go to hospital in Australia end up suffering a complication, a new report has found.
That figure rises to one in four for those who stay in hospital overnight - about 725,000 each year.
Those who suffer a complication after a procedure end up staying in hospital for an extra five days, the report by the Grattan Institute shows.
The institute recommends all states and territories establish goals for reducing the overall rate of complications in public and private hospitals.
It also suggests hospitals and clinicians are given the ability to look into data to see how they compare against others, and private health insurers give their members information on complication rates.
The report found if all hospitals lifted their safety performance to the level of the best 10 per cent of hospitals across the country, the complication rate would fall by more than a quarter.
They estimate it would mean an extra 250,000 patients would leave hospital each year free of complications.
Author Stephen Duckett believes a veil of secrecy nowadays hangs over which hospitals and clinicians have higher rates.
"Patients should have access to the information on complication rates in different hospitals and for different procedures, so they - and their GPs - can make better-informed decisions about how and where they are treated," he said on Monday.
The Consumers Health Forum believes it's time for a change in attitude about how hospital patient data is used.
"If hospitals have something to hide, the public should know about it. If hospitals are doing well then they have nothing to hide," chief executive Leanne Wells said in a statement.
Ms Wells said while many complications were not major, and could be fixed quickly, they can point to ways in which hospital care can be improved for patients.