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More health data needed: AHHA

Australia's healthcare system will not improve without access to more data, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association says.

The comments came from acting chief executive Dr Linc Thurecht, as he called for another Australian Health Survey.

"To this end the AHHA is concerned that there is as yet no national commitment to continue the excellent Australian Health Survey last conducted in 2011–13, and funded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Health and the Heart Foundation," he said.

"Repeating the survey regularly would provide data that tracks changes in health needs and risk factors to provide better targeting of healthcare and health interventions, and improve efficiency in healthcare spending.

"We need regular and comprehensive information about the health of people living in Australia if we want to plan and provide the best possible health system.

"Australia has a number of health-related surveys but we still remain behind most other developed nations in the health information we regularly collect and use in health policy and planning."

The AHHA has put its support behind the AHS being conducted every six years in conjunction with the triennial National Health Survey.

"Regular and predictable repeats of comparable surveys increases the value of the data collected over time," he said.

"It also builds the skills of the survey’s administrators, data analysts and policy analysts over time, which could lead to administrative savings by not having to re-skill a workforce on an ad hoc basis.

"The survey will provide a strong evidence base for decision-making and a valuable source of data for health and medical researchers.

"Funding the Australian Health Survey through the Medical Research Future Fund is suggested. This not only fulfils the funding principles of the fund, it is also an appropriate way of insulating the survey from year‑to‑year budget pressures.

"It could be argued that secondary use of My Health Record data would make the Australian Health Survey unnecessary – and indeed a framework is being developed for this. But the quality and comprehensiveness of these data will not be of sufficient standard in the short to medium term, and in any case are primarily collected for clinical rather than policy purposes."

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