This issues brief examines the evolution of the reporting requirements of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) over the last ten years, with a particular focus on programs funded by the Australian Government Department of Health (the Department). With one exception, the issues brief examines key initiatives implemented by the Department, up to the end of 2013, in an attempt to improve reporting arrangements for ACCHOs. It also examines the impacts of these changes on reporting efficiency. The exception is the Healthy for Life Program. The program is included here because it pioneered Continuous Quality Improvement and outcomes based reporting and as such influenced subsequent reporting developments.
The key initiatives are:
- the Service Development and Reporting Framework (SDRF) (2005 to 2011);
- the Healthy for Life program (2005 and continuing);
- the Indigenous and Rural Health Division (formerly Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health) Risk Assessment Process (2008 to 2013);
- developments in Information Technology and Information Management, with a particular focus on the OCHREStreams web-based reporting tool (2011 and continuing); and
- a multi-year funding agreement (2011 and continuing).
These initiatives have brought about some significant improvements in reporting efficiency, including:
- standardisation of reporting requirements across several programs under the SDRF, with a consequent reduction in reporting complexity and effort and adoption of a more strategic cross-program approach to planning and reporting;
- a shift to outcomes based planning and reporting as part of a continuous quality improvement cycle, and an increase in the data management skills and systems needed to support continuous quality improvement;
- progressive move to independent risk assessment that focused primarily on governance and financial management, which has driven improvements in the quality of financial reporting;
- the development and roll-out of a web-based reporting tool that allows ACCHOs to submit organisational and service activity data, as well as data for national Key Performance Indicators; and
- further standardisation of reporting requirements under the Department’s multi-year funding agreement.
Despite these improvements, ACCHOs still face a complex and resource intensive reporting load. Current reporting requirements are discussed in some detail, along with a range of possible improvements that could be made with the aim of avoiding unnecessary reporting yet maintaining information flows for policy and programme design implementation and review supporting the accountability requirements of public funds and supports continuous quality improvement in the sector. These include:
- working with other funders, particularly the states, to coordinate and standardise reporting requirements, with a possible extension of OCHREStreams to enable it to be used by states for some aspects of reporting;
- reviewing the extensive data reporting-related requirements with a view to removing those that are of least value to the Commonwealth and the sector; and
- where formal accountability requirements permit, moving progressively away from reporting on inputs and throughputs in favour of outcomes-based reporting, with possible use of targets and benchmarks to enable organisations to track performance.
The identified improvements provide a framework for continuing to work towards maximising reporting efficiency which will help to address a range of strategic outcomes including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (2013–2023) priorities.
It should be noted that whilst this issues brief references only arrangements until the end of 2013, there have been considerable reporting changes and initiatives since that time.