National mental health information priorities 2nd edition

4.6 - Improving national minimum data sets for mental health care

Page last updated: June 2005

4.6.1 Rationale
4.6.2 Consolidation activities
4.6.3 New initiatives

4.6.1 Rationale

National Minimum Data Sets represent the building blocks of all information strategies in the health field and are a pre-requisite to many of the activities described in this document.

Substantial progress has been made in developing national minimum data sets for mental health care through the work of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, working in collaboration with the States and Territories. These data sets enable consistent information to be collected and pooled nationally across all public sector specialised mental health service settings.

Notwithstanding these achievements, there remain significant gaps in the information available at the national level, which limit the extent to which informed policy choices can be made in response to emerging issues. Additionally, elements of these data available on the mental health sector have been developed outside the framework normally governing the reporting of national health information and, in some instances, differ from those requirements.

Achieving sustainability of national mental health information requires three steps:
  1. incorporating the special collections that the mental health sector has developed over the course of the National Mental Health Strategy within mainstream health arrangements;

  2. ensuring that health collections developed within other health sectors are responsive to mental health requirements; and

  3. refining the existing national minimum data sets for mental health care to ensure their continuing relevance and that high priority gaps are filled.

4.6.2 Consolidation activities

Transfer of the National Survey of Mental Health Services to a National Minimum Data Set for Mental Health Establishments

The National Survey of Mental Health Services, conducted annually since 1994, has served as the main source of information on the progress of mental health reform in Australia. Conversion of this collection to a national minimum data set, collected and reported under the same arrangements applying to other national collections, is necessary to ensure future information for monitoring of the National Mental Health Strategy.

Progressive integration of the Mental Health National Outcomes and Casemix Collection (NOCC) within admitted patient, community care and residential care minimum data sets

The NOCC dataset provides the source information about consumer outcomes and casemix in mental health care. Developed as a 'research and development' collection, the aim of incorporating the various elements within existing collections was foreshadowed from the outset, subject to their review and proven worth. This is likely to take the full 2003-08 period.
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Review of National Minimum Data Set for Admitted Patients – Mental Health Care

Introduced in 1997, this collection was the first of the national minimum data sets for mental health and provides the basis for reporting on the activity of all specialised psychiatric inpatient services. A review of the collection is being undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, with a view to improving its quality and utility for future requirements, such as informing policy development and reporting on performance.

4.6.3 New initiatives

Enhancement of National Minimum Data Set – Community Mental Health Care

This collection, introduced in 2001, is currently the largest of its type in the Australian health system, covering over 5 million community contacts and approximately 300,000 consumers per year. Further development will be undertaken to improve the way in which data are recorded when consumers are seen in the community, with a particular focus on establishing consistency in how community contacts are defined and recorded. The collection will also be enhanced with information on contact duration as a basis for quantifying the varying levels of care provided to mental health consumers in the community.

Development of nationally agreed mental health intervention codes

Work will commence to develop a national system for coding mental health interventions that will provide information on the types of services provided to mental health consumers. A nationally agreed system for describing services is essential to answer the question of 'what works for whom'.

Review of other health and welfare data collections and concepts to improve relevance to mental health requirements

A number of datasets developed in other areas have relevance to mental health and offer potential to improve our understanding of the needs of the Australian population. These will be reviewed with the aim of exploring opportunities to improve the capacity of the collections to inform mental health service development, or link to mental health datasets. Foremost among the collections to be examined are:
  • health labour force collections gathered by registration bodies;

  • alcohol and other drug treatment services national minimum data set;

  • national collections in relation to services provided by general practitioners;

  • Commonwealth/State/Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) minimum data set;

  • Supported Accommodation Assistance Program National Data Collection; and

  • Commonwealth/State/Territory Housing Agreement data.