We need a national primary healthcare data set

Monday, January 14, 2019

A new year should bring new efforts to properly establish a national primary healthcare dataset, according to the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA).

‘The Commonwealth Government and individuals invest considerable sums of money every year in primary healthcare—typically GPs and Aboriginal Medical Services’, says AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘But, to date, no comprehensive ongoing national data set exists that can give insights into why people use and access primary healthcare services, what occurs in individual consultations, and the outcomes of those services.’

The AHHA has released an Issues Brief today, 'Call for the establishment of a primary health care national minimum data set', by Maddy Thorpe and Sharon Sweeney (Brisbane South Primary Health Network). The work was undertaken as part of the Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholarship hosted by the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research at AHHA.

‘What is needed is what is called a National Minimum Dataset (NMDS)—that is, a set of data items, using the same definitions, that every General Practice in every state and territory commits to collecting as a minimum.’

‘We think the primary healthcare NMDS needs to include standardised data on:

  • Provider demographics—to help workforce planning
  • Patient demographics
  • Patient health status and health-related behaviours
  • Patient encounters—to understand why people are using GPs and other primary healthcare providers
  • Health outcomes—to evaluate how efficient and effective services are.

‘Fortuitously a national mechanism has been recently set up to lead national primary healthcare data development—the National Primary Health Care Data Unit at the independent statutory agency, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

‘Accordingly, we call on the Australian Government to capitalise on this initiative and back the AIHW to the greatest extent possible to lead the development of a Primary Health Care National Minimum Data Set.

‘In so doing the Institute will need to be crystal clear on why the data are being collected and be mindful of the practicalities associated with collection of the data, the need for workforce development and training, the need to address consumer issues, and the need to assure privacy and security of the data.

‘There is also a strong need for alignment with other national data sets in health through a national  data governance framework’, Ms Verhoeven said.

The Call for the establishment of a primary health care national minimum data set Issues Brief is available here.

More information about the AHHA is available at ahha.asn.au

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:  

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501