Barriers to the routine collection of health outcome data in an Australian community care organization
Susan A Nancarrow
School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, East Lismore, NSW, Australia
Abstract: For over a decade, organizations have attempted to include the measurement and reporting of health outcome data in contractual agreements between funders and health service providers, but few have succeeded. This research explores the utility of collecting health outcomes data that could be included in funding contracts for an Australian Community Care Organisation (CCO). An action-research methodology was used to trial the implementation of outcome measurement in six diverse projects within the CCO using a taxonomy of interventions based on the International Classification of Function. The findings from the six projects are presented as vignettes to illustrate the issues around the routine collection of health outcomes in each case. Data collection and analyses were structured around Donabedian's structure–process–outcome triad. Health outcomes are commonly defined as a change in health status that is attributable to an intervention. This definition assumes that a change in health status can be defined and measured objectively; the intervention can be defined; the change in health status is attributable to the intervention; and that the health outcomes data are accessible. This study found flaws with all of these assumptions that seriously undermine the ability of community-based organizations to introduce routine health outcome measurement. Challenges were identified across all stages of the Donabedian triad, including poor adherence to minimum dataset requirements; difficulties standardizing processes or defining interventions; low rates of use of outcome tools; lack of value of the tools to the service provider; difficulties defining or identifying the end point of an intervention; technical and ethical barriers to accessing data; a lack of standardized processes; and time lags for the collection of data. In no case was the use of outcome measures sustained by any of the teams, although some quality-assurance measures were introduced as a result of the project.
Keywords: health outcome measurement, allied health, community services, Australia, accountability, effectiveness, International Classification of Function
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