Could health information systems enhance the quality of Aboriginal health promotion? A retrospective audit of Aboriginal health programs in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC medical informatics and decision making, 2020, 20, (1)
Issue Date:
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BACKGROUND:In Australia, health services are seeking innovative ways to utilize data stored in health information systems to report on, and improve, health care quality and health system performance for Aboriginal Australians. However, there is little research about the use of health information systems in the context of Aboriginal health promotion. In 2008, the Northern Territory's publicly funded healthcare system introduced the quality improvement program planning system (QIPPS) as the centralized online system for recording information about health promotion programs. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential for utilizing data stored in QIPPS to report on quality of Aboriginal health promotion, using chronic disease prevention programs as exemplars. We identify the potential benefits and limitations of health information systems for enhancing Aboriginal health promotion. METHODS:A retrospective audit was undertaken on a sample of health promotion projects delivered between 2013 and 2016. A validated, paper-based audit tool was used to extract information stored in the QIPPS online system and report on Aboriginal health promotion quality. Simple frequency counts were calculated for dichotomous and categorical items. Text was extracted and thematically analyzed to describe community participation processes and strategies used in Aboriginal health promotion. RESULTS:39 Aboriginal health promotion projects were included in the analysis. 34/39 projects recorded information pertaining to the health promotion planning phases, such as statements of project goals, 'needs assessment' findings, and processes for consulting Aboriginal people in the community. Evaluation findings were reported in approximately one third of projects and mostly limited to a recording of numbers of participants. For almost half of the projects analyzed, community participation strategies were not recorded. CONCLUSION:This is the first Australian study to shed light on the feasibility of utilizing data stored in a purposefully designed health promotion information system. Data availability and quality were limiting factors for reporting on Aboriginal health promotion quality. Based on our learnings of QIPPS, strategies to improve the quality and accuracy of data entry together with the use of quality improvement approaches are needed to reap the potential benefits of future health promotion information systems.
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