Allied health services are integral to the management of chronic conditions in the community setting, yet little data about them are collected, impeding health service planning, design, and policy decisions. It is unclear what, when, and where allied health services are required and how they would be best provided. Community-based allied health services funded by Medicare through the Chronic Disease Management program represent a significant and growing component of the health care system.
Data-driven strategic leveraging of allied health services has significant potential to improve the safety, quality, and efficiency of chronic disease management through service models including greater integration of care; diversified skills-mix enabling flexible workforce planning to address unmet health needs; greater community-based management to reduce avoidable hospitalisations; and depth of knowledge in specific care domains. Existing data collection provides information on the number and geographic distribution of Chronic Disease Management services, but does not include comprehensive information on the types of chronic conditions managed, how they are managed, and the outcomes of management. This type of clinical data should be collected to guide proactive workforce planning, inform design of innovative service delivery, support patient provider care decisions, and identify areas of sub-optimal performance for quality improvement.
There is a lack of digital infrastructure to support the collection of allied health data. Development and implementation of nationally consistent clinical terminology for data entry, software interoperability standards for data exchange and sharing, and support for organisational adoption of new digital health technologies are required. Collection of data by allied health providers is limited by a lack of time and incentives. However, sufficient uptake of collection is needed to allow for meaningful interpretation and utilisation of data. Government should consider introducing a longer initial appointment Chronic Disease Management allied health item that attracts a higher rebate, as well data collection incentives similar to that used in general practice.
- Collect nationally consistent data on outcomes that matter most to patients with chronic conditions.
- Support development of evidence through collection of diagnoses, clinical management, and outcomes of patients seen during routine care.
- Create incentives for allied health provider participation in data collection.
- Implement standardised terminology and interoperability standards into digital infrastructure to support community-based allied health data collection and use.