Services provided by the private sector were not originally considered within the scope of the National Mental Health Strategy but governments have become increasingly aware of the importance of partnerships with private sector services.
Significant information initiatives took place within the sector over the 1998-2003 period, led by the Strategic Planning Group for Private Psychiatric Services (SPGPPS). Comprising representatives drawn from private hospitals, health insurers, the Australian Government, consumer and carer groups, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and the Australian Medical Association, the SPGPPS was established in 1996 to facilitate increased collaboration on issues relevant to the funding of private mental health services. Subsequently, the group's role expanded to encompass a wide range of issues related to private sector development. It is the only group of its kind in the private health sector in Australia that brings together provider, funder and consumer stakeholders to work on developing a common agenda for service development.
The first key development was agreement for the implementation of a national model for the collection and use of data within the psychiatric services provided by private hospitals.13 Developed following extensive consultation within the industry, the model established systems for the routine collection of information that will enable hospital providers, funders and consumers to compare services and assess the relative effectiveness of various models of care.
The use of standard measures of consumer outcome as an integral part of service delivery is central to the model. The approach taken parallels that being introduced in public mental health services, with measures of outcome completed both by clinicians and consumers at admission and discharge from care. Information collected in this way is pooled subsequently at the national level in de-identified format for analysis and feedback to participating hospitals.
By July 2003, 43 of the 46 Australian private hospitals providing psychiatric care were participating in the collection and reporting of data under the SPGPPS's National Model. This involved the implementation by almost all participating hospitals of a common database application for collecting, submitting and making local use of outcomes and service utilisation data. Concurrently, a centralised data management service was established, providing comprehensive quarterly reports to all participating hospitals and health insurance funds.
13 Morris-Yates, A and The Strategic Planning Group for Private Psychiatric Services Data Collection and Analysis Working Group (2000). A National Model for the Collection and Analysis of a Minimum Data Set with Outcome Measures for Private, Hospital–based Psychiatric Services. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.