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.

Population health

  • 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.