National mental health information priorities 2nd edition

4.7 - Information to support mental health care provided external to the specialist sector

Page last updated: June 2005

4.7.1 Rationale

The growing recognition of the extent of mental health care provided by health services operating external to the specialist sector has not been reflected in mental health information development at the national level. Major policy initiatives such as Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care, targeted at general practitioners (see section 2.11), and the National Institute of Clinical Studies Mental Health Emergency Care Interface Project, aim to enhance the capacity of the health system to respond to mental health issues. Information requirements to support such initiatives need to be identified, along with work designed to develop information at the national level that will guide further policy and planning.

Areas for initial work outlined below are those identified as the highest priority in terms of community impact.

4.7.2 New initiatives

Further development of outcome measures to enhance the role of general practitioners

Steps to support the use of outcome measures currently being collected under the Better Outcomes in Mental Health initiative will be explored in consultation with the Australian Divisions of General Practice. A number of options are available to make better use of the data including, for example:
  • development of normative data to guide interpretation by general practitioners;

  • incorporation of outcome measurement within general practitioner-based clinical information systems to support monitoring of individual patient progress and clinical decision making; and

  • analysis of samples of these data to inform the evaluation and future planning of primary mental health care initiatives.

Information support for improving emergency department mental health care:

A series of studies has described the role played by general hospital emergency departments in providing a front line response to people presenting with a mental illness, highlighting the need to improve the assessment, triage and referral process. Apart from 'one-off' studies, information is not collected at the national level to monitor developments in this area and inform future policy. Opportunities will be explored to link with related initiatives that have potential to contribute to future directions in this area including:
  • mental health related projects being progressed under the National Institute of Clinical Studies 'Emergency Care Community of Practice' projects;

  • the emergency department 'term set development project' being conducted through the National Centre for Classification in Health; and

  • the ongoing development of the Non-Admitted Patient Emergency Department Care National Minimum Data Set being led by Department of Health and Ageing.