Building the future for primary health-care data in Australia

Our challenge

Filling gaps in primary health-care data 

The primary health-care data landscape is disparate and disjointed, with little comprehensive or comparable data for national reporting. In May 2018, the AIHW received ongoing Australian Government funding to develop an enduring National Primary Health Care Data Asset as an accessible, value-added evidence base on health status, interventions and outcomes, collated from general practice, nursing and allied health.

The AIHW envisions that the data asset will:

  • facilitate understanding of the primary health-care patient journey, and fill primary care data and information gaps
  • be underpinned by robust and transparent data standards and data governance, including privacy, ethics, data sovereignty and security
  • enable data linkage, analysis and outcome reporting
  • be inclusive of the breadth of primary health-care data and practice.

Our response

Developing the data asset in stages

The AIHW has begun building the data asset. There are 3 broad streams of interrelated work:

  1. develop protocols and processes for data governance (including privacy, consent, ethics and security), standards, linkage, analysis and reporting
  2. undertake case studies to test the real-world application of those protocols and processes and demonstrate the value of the data asset
  3. build data capacity and capability in nursing and allied health.

This staged approach followed a period of substantial consultation across the primary health-care sector, and an assessment of existing and emerging infrastructure, governance and primary care information models.

Our results

Ongoing progress and engagement

The AIHW has made considerable progress towards building the data asset in 2020–21. We are working collaboratively with the WA Primary Health Alliance to explore the potential of the Primary Health Insights platform to host the data asset. This platform is designed to store de-identified primary care data collected by Primary Health Networks (PHNs). The focus of this exploratory work program will be to ensure robust governance arrangements for development of the data asset within the Primary Health Insights platform.

The AIHW has undertaken 2 well-received digital health audits in the physiotherapy sector, contributing to understanding the way in which patient- and service-level data are collected and used, and informing work to:

  • map the physiotherapy digital health ecosystem and report on available data
  • develop core data items for use across the allied health sector
  • build understanding of data capacity and capability in other allied health professions.

Ongoing close engagement with stakeholders from governments, PHNs, professional bodies, research organisations, software vendors and consumers will ensure the value and utility of the data asset in the broader primary health-care information environment.