Back to the source: returning data to Indigenous communities

For nearly a decade, the Department of Health has funded the AIHW to collect performance indicator data directly from organisations that provide primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The national key performance indicators for Indigenous primary health care (the nKPIs) comprises a set of 24 indicators that aim to improve the delivery of primary health care with a focus on maternal and child health, preventative health and chronic disease.

The indicators include both process of care indicators, such as timing of first antenatal visit and health assessment recording, and outcome indicators, such as blood pressure and kidney function test results for clients with type 2 diabetes.

Not only are nKPI data analysed and used for national reporting in many ways, service level data are returned to the communities they came from, so service providers can use this objective information to improve the health services they provide.

There are currently 242 Indigenous-specific primary health care organisations that contribute to the nKPIs, with over 40% of these located in remote and very remote areas. These organisations are the main providers of primary health care services to clients in these areas and therefore play an important role in working to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

'By returning organisation level data to these individual services, along with comparative national, state and regional data, organisations can examine trends and patterns in their processes and outcomes,' said Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, Head of the Institute's Indigenous and Children's Group.

Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) in Western Australia, for example, used nKPI data for their organisation and four member services to identify where organisations were performing well (Figure 1).

The data were used to generate conversations between services to identify each other's strengths and learn where improvements could be made.

'A practical example of the improvements possible can be seen in KAMS, where, with access to their own data, these organisations were able to improve their processes to ensure blood pressure information was recorded for clients with type 2 diabetes,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

Dr Al-Yaman said that this is an example of the power of data to help deliver better health services in Indigenous communities.

'It is also a good example of the AIHW's strategic priority of providing value-added feedback to data providers.'

Figure 1: Proportion of clients with type 2 diabetes with blood pressure recorded in the last six months, selected services in Western Australia

Proportion of clients with type 2 diabetes with blood pressure recorded in the last six months, selected services in Western Australia

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