Impact of COVID-19 and interpreting results over time
Summary information on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected organisations, and their results, from the 2019–20 OSR and June 2020 nKPI collection periods onwards is provided in this box and in selected sections throughout this report. A comparison of the pre-COVID-19 period with periods during COVID-19 for selected nKPI process-of-care indicators and OSR items is planned for release in 2023.
Although there are no COVID-19 specific items in either the OSR or nKPI collections, organisations that provided comments about variations in selected data items for the relevant periods indicated that:
In 2019–20 and 2020–21:
- the pandemic affected their capacity to provide their usual services, for example, because of workforce availability or the need to pivot the delivery of services towards responding to COVID-19 (such as providing COVID-19 testing and/or vaccinations)
- the pandemic affected how they provided services (that is, by telehealth or in-person) and there were issues with the recording of telehealth consultations in their data
- pandemic-related restrictions (for example, stay-at-home orders) and anxiety over contracting or spreading COVID-19 affected clients’ use of services.
Nationally, these factors resulted in decreases in the number of clients, client contacts and episodes of care delivered overall and changes in some nKPI measures.
- in addition to their usual clients, additional clients attended their sites specifically for COVID-19 vaccinations (that is, not for other primary health care services)
- their usual clients began returning to their sites for primary health care services after COVID-19 restrictions ceased.
Nationally, these factors led to an increase in client numbers, client contacts and episodes of care overall but a decrease in the average client contacts and episodes of care per client, and changes in some nKPI measures.
Interpreting results over time
A combination of other factors also affects results over time. For example, variation in results between periods may also reflect:
- changes in reporting requirements (for example, the voluntary nature of reporting for periods in 2019–20 and 2020–21 and the associated decrease in the number of reporting organisations)
- general changes in the characteristics of organisations that report each period (for example, the number and type of organisations reporting to the collection varies between periods, an organisation may close or open a site, or an organisation may change their internal data recording processes).
See Technical notes for more information about interpreting results over time.