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One simple question – Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?

Identifying the Indigenous status of people accessing health services helps Close the Gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It improves national health data and, in the general practice sector, helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access Indigenous-specific health measures designed to overcome the health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Most of these measures are accessed through general practitioners.

The AIHW's role

The AIHW plays a leadership role in improving Indigenous identification. It:

  • develops national guidelines and other resources to promote best practice
  • monitors and analyses the quality of Indigenous data in national health data collections
  • helps state and territory governments improve Indigenous data collection in their services
  • supports consumers and health care providers improve Indigenous identification via the national helpline.

Contact for advice and help

NIDISC (AIHW National Indigenous Data Improvement Support Centre) helpdesk:
Telephone: 1800 223 919
Email:

Resources to improve Indigenous identification in health services

The general practice sector

The general practice sector is different from many other health sectors. It not only collects Indigenous status for data collections, it provides access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific health measures.

But collection of Indigenous status of patients in general practice, and access to Indigenous-specific health measures, is low. Our report, Taking the next steps: identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in general practice, explains this problem and current efforts to improve both data collection and service delivery.

Making changes to the software used in general practice has been identified as a key way to improve:

  • standardisation of processes to ascertain and record Indigenous status
  • uptake of GP-mediated Indigenous-specific health measures, such as Indigenous-specific health checks and follow-up services
  • the recording of Indigenous status in datasets that rely on GP-generated data, such as cancer registries, pap smear registries and mortality data.

The AIHW has developed the working paper General practice software model to support best practice in Indigenous health care (261KB PDF) to raise awareness of these issues and help improve general practice software. We welcome input to the working paper by phone: 1800 223 919 or email:  

Points to note:

  • GPs can help improve data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health by recording Indigenous status on pathology request forms and death certificates.
  • GPs can earn extra income from Aborignial and Torres Strait Islander specific Medicare items and practice incentives under the Indigenous Health Incentive.
  • RACGP-accredited practices must record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in patient records.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be eligible for targeted health measures from their GPs. These measures were introduced to help reduce the health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
  • The main Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific health measures accessed via GPs are:

Practices participating in the Practice Incentive Program Indigenous Health Incentive can also register eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for chronic disease management (see Indigenous Health Incentive guidelines).

Indigenous health check (MBS 715) data tool

Despite the health benefit offered by Indigenous-specific health measures, nearly 80% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did not have an Indigenous specific annual health check (MBS 715) in 2013-14.

The Indigenous health check data tool aims to increase awareness and uptake of the health check among providers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The tool is a dynamic data display showing the number and usage rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific health checks. See the Indigenous health check (MBS 715) data tool webpage.