Evaluation of the National External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program

2.5 Limitations of the data

Page last updated: 05 November 2010

There are a number of limitations to the data presented here.

It is not possible to quantify the number of women in Australia who are eligible for the program. For that reason, it was not possible to devise a sample which was statistically representative of the eligible population. There were several factors influencing the development of the sample:

  • the lack of knowledge regarding the number of women in Australia who are eligible for the program
  • the lack of any data source which could identify who eligible women may be or where they may be located
  • the consequent need to seek potential respondents through a variety of networks for women with breast cancer, and
  • the likelihood that many potential respondents are currently living with a recent cancer diagnosis, surgery and/or treatment, and the corresponding sensitivity and ethical issues which arise.
The research team sought to reach women through representative organisations such as BCNA and breast cancer support groups. However, we acknowledge that there are many women who may not choose to join a group or identify with a particular organisation. For that reason, we sought to advertise the survey (which could be accessed anywhere by anyone via the Internet) as widely as possible. It is likely that the respondents are not representative of the range of eligible women across Australia; potentially, women who do not join groups, are older and perhaps more isolated, have had their surgery a long time ago, are not English-speaking, or are not Internet-savvy or do not have Internet access, are not represented within this survey. It is likely that those women who are more articulate and willing to express their opinions, those who have particular views which they are keen to share, and those who are more educated are over-represented in the pool of respondents.

At the same time, a consultation of over 350 women has provided reasonably consistent feedback through the range of opportunities provided (survey, interview, email, focus group), so that the issues which have been identified, while not many in number, have been expressed across a wide diversity of respondents.

What the evaluation does provide is a snapshot of perspectives regarding the program in its first year of operation, as viewed by those in roles within stakeholder and representative organisations or those consumers who have accessed the program. The picture which is presented here is based on the views of those who have had some interaction with the program through their professional role or their personal lives.

A discussion of the key themes of the evaluation is found in chapter 5, with recommendations for the future.