Following the initial National Health Information Development Plan in 1995, national health information in Australia has developed considerable momentum.
As the quality, reliability and timeliness of the information have improved so have the utility and the use of the information. There are now a number of national health information systems and data collections that are widely used for analysis and comparison at all levels of the health care system.
In preparing new priorities to move forward from the 1995 Plan, existing health information priorities have been reviewed and an assessment made of the information impact of major new health strategies. From this, ten groupings of national health information priorities have been identified. Within each grouping a number of more specific issues have been proposed.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
- Reinforce efforts to implement the National Indigenous Health Information Plan, in particular through the efforts of agencies to improve the coverage and quality of the Indigenous status identifier in key data sets, including hospital separations, primary health care, births and deaths registries, and disease registries.
- Implement the ABS Survey Strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics and, where possible, provide separate estimates for Torres Strait Islander peoples. The strategy is to include a program of ongoing research and development of survey practice and design.
- Improve the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates through continued development of population census enumeration strategies, increased levels of identification in births and deaths registrations, and demographic analysis.
- Undertake data development to support reporting of AHMAC- endorsed National Performance Indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.
1.1.2. Integration of services-coordinated care
- Develop and expand national minimum data set (NMDS) modules to cover services delivered in emergency, other ambulatory and community health settings, according to priorities of service providers, funders and consumers.
- Work with the National Community Services Information Management Group and the National Housing Data Agreement Management Group to implement a consistent approach to data development in national data dictionaries in the health, community services and housing fields.
Safety and quality in health care
- Review existing data collections and, where necessary, establish new collections to support the Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care to monitor and improve health system safety and to integrate indicators with the National Health Performance Committee framework.
- Support development of measures of health service outcome, including survival analysis, using electronic health records and ethically approved data linkage where possible.
Information technology and health
- Work with HealthConnect to develop patient summaries and health summaries through the development of classification and coding systems for adoption within the proposed national health information framework, and plan for their use in statistical analysis and reporting.
- Use unique patient identifiers, where available, and with strict privacy safeguards (including obtaining Ethics Committee approval where necessary), to produce statistics describing patient care and outcomes within and across health care sectors.
- Develop data collections to incorporate a range of health risk factors, including behavioural, biomedical, environmental, occupational and other socioeconomic factors, recognising the priority of special needs groups. In particular, introduce a series of national surveys that include biological measurement of major modifiable risk factors as part of Australia’s national health information system.
- Coordinate behavioural risk factor surveys to promote best practice and development consistent with a continuous nationwide chronic disease and associated risk factor information and monitoring system.
- Establish ongoing programs for collection of information from previous ad hoc national surveys on key topics, especially mental health, nutrition and oral health.
- Continue the development and collection of information on public health expenditure.
- Support the National Public Health Partnership to implement other recommendations of the National Public Health Information Development Plan 1999.
Equity and access
- Build on existing development of analytical techniques for reporting on health inequalities and on the health of vulnerable populations.
- Subject to the constraints of privacy legislation, utilise emerging geo- coding capability of population health and health service data systems to facilitate analysis of service-specific access.
Health labour force
- Review the frequency, content and methodology of health labour force collections against contemporary planning needs, especially where the geographic distribution, skill levels and numbers of professionals do not match consumer demand and where structural change such as corporatisation and contracting arrangements are changing the organisation of service provision.
Performance of the health system
- Undertake data development, expanded collections and, where necessary, implement new collections to facilitate the National Health Performance Committee’s reporting of performance indicators under the National Health Performance Framework and the AIHW’s reporting of indicators for National Health Priority Areas.
- Develop a national minimum data set for public sector financial data of adequate quality for comparative analysis of health system and unit costs.
- Develop summary health measures to ensure that valid Australian indicator data are available for reporting by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its Wellbeing Indicators Program and by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the World Health Report.
Standards and classification
- Implement recommendations from the Review of the National Health Data Dictionary, March 2001, including upgrading the Knowledgebase as a national health (and welfare) data standards registry and consolidating the National Health Information Model as an organising structure for health metadata.
- Establish processes for developing, agreeing and maintaining national classification systems and links with coding systems in all health settings.
Management of health information
- Commission regular and systematic review and enhancement of the timeliness, accuracy and completeness of national minimum data sets and other major national collections.
- Negotiate for the reduction of overlap and duplication in national health data collections.
- Develop and implement best practice guidelines, protocols and standards for data development, collection, compilation, analysis and dissemination, including common protocols for access to jurisdictional data to promote their use for research and analysis and increasing the range of data available electronically.
- Advocate for adoption of statistical best practice in information privacy regimes, including rules for statistical use of unique client identifiers.