News from the HCA team

Research project: Establishment of a model for professional certification of medical scientists and technicians working in Australia

Establishment of a national model for professional certification of medical scientists and technicians working in Australian pathology laboratories                                                                           

HCA has been commissioned by the Australian Institute of Medical Scientists (AIMS), in partnership with the Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists (AACB), to explore the “Establishment of a national model for professional certification of medical scientists and technicians working in Australian pathology laboratories”. This project has been funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health through its Quality Use of Pathology Program (QUPP).

The project has been designed to explore professional certification through an evidence-based, coordinated and independent analysis of possible models and then through facilitated and mediated discussions between the relevant existing pathology service stakeholders bring a consensus on a single selected model. A set of potential options for establishing an objective, transparent and sustainable professional certification model and operating system for all medical scientists and technical staff working in Australian pathology laboratories will be developed for consideration.

Detailed information can be found on the project page.

You can also subscribe to the mailing list to receive regular updates about the project.

Evaluation of the Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service

Surveys completed, case studies and interviews soon to commence

Last year HCA and Murawin commenced the 2016-18 evaluation of the NSW Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service (AMIHS).

At the end of last year the evaluation received approval from the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) and the NSW Population and Health Services Research ethics committees.

HCA and Murawin are excited to announce that Components 1 and 2 of the evaluation have now been completed – the document review and AMIHS manager survey.

We are very grateful for the hard work contributed by AMIHS managers which resulted in a 100% response rate (47 surveys from 47 sites)! Thanks again to everyone who contributed.

The information from the first two project components has now been analysed using a cluster analysis technique. This analysis has indicated that there are five main ways that AMIHS is being implemented across the sites. An interim report and a set of six recommended case study sites have now been provided to the Ministry of Health.

We hope to be able to announce the case study sites and be out in the field shortly. The purpose of the case studies will be to explore, in more detail, how AMIHS is being delivered, how it has been received by mothers of Aboriginal babies and their families and communities, and how it is sitting within the broader network of health and community services in those communities.

We will also shortly commence interviews with key peak organisations and preparation for Components 5 and 6 – analysis of the Perinatal Data Collection (PDC) and the AMIHS Data Collection (AMDC) and an economic analysis of financial data collected in Component 2.

Contact Debbie Stanford, HCA Staff Consultant, for more information about the aims and methodology of the evaluation, or even send us information relevant to the evaluation.

You can also join the mailing list to receive regular updates about the evaluation.

HCA launches new report on the Public Health Physician Workforce at the 15th World Congress on Public Health

HCA team members, Lee Ridoutt and Carla Cowles, recently completed a labour market analysis of the Public Health Physician workforce in Australia for the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. Building on previous HCA studies undertaken for the Faculty, and using novel methods for estimating workforce demand, findings from this recent study will provide important guidance and direction for the future development of the Public Health Physician workforce.

Lee Ridoutt will launch the report today at the 15th World Congress on Public Health being held in Melbourne this week.

The full report can be downloaded here.

News on NDIS Workforce Implications

In 2015 HCA completed a report on the likely workforce implications of the coming NDIS implementation in the community mental health sector under the project management of the NSW Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC). We are delighted to let you know that the final project report is now publically available and can be downloaded here.

The report was sent to Mental Health Australia NDIS Capacity Building Project Advisory Group members in early August 2016 and distributed through the MHA CEO’s weekly e-news shortly after.

HCA takes this opportunity to thank MHCC, in particular Tina Smith, and a number of community mental health organisation peak bodies in each state and territory and other organisations (in particular the National Disability Service) for many contributions to the project. It was a big and complex piece of work that will be of benefit across a range of NDIS and other MH reform activity over the next few years.

Tina Smith will be presenting on the report at the TheMHS Conference on Thursday 25th at 1:30 PM on the project. You can learn more about the conference by clicking this link and we will no doubt see proceedings notes in due course.

HCA and Murawin Consulting Commence Evaluation of the NSW Aboriginal Maternity and Infant Health Services Program

The HCA team is delighted to announce that, in conjunction with our new partner, Murawin Consulting (led by Carol Vale), we have recently commenced a two year evaluation process to investigate the reach, impact and cost of the NSW Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Services (AMIHS) Program since it was established over 15 years ago. The evaluation will focus on the program’s impact on Aboriginal babies and their mothers and seek to identify the critical success factors in the various models that have been implemented over time across the State. More information on the AMIHS program can be found here.

As would be expected with a two year evaluation project timeframe, the evaluation process planned is very comprehensive consisting of both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis and use of both secondary and primary data sources. The evaluation effort will cover both AMIHS Program implementation and outcomes. Much of the evaluation method is standard, but some use of some quite interesting and novel methods such as social network analysis and the Field Implementation Rating Scale are included in the evaluation effort.

On the quantitative data analysis side we will be conducting extensive analysis of relevant existing data sources (epidemiological and service-level data such as the Perinatal Data Collection and the Aboriginal Maternity Data Collection) as well as collecting and analyzing quantified data on the Program implementation.

Utilizing Murawin’s great capacity for consultation with Aboriginal communities, qualitative data will be collected from service providers, consumers of the AMIHS services, and other stakeholders (such as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services). The qualitative data will add texture and insight to the findings from the quantitative data.

As comprehensive a picture as possible of the costs associated with the program will be collated and analysed and, within the limits of the data available to the project, value for money judgements made within the context of alternative options of the broader health system.

We are currently in the process of bedding down our plan for the implementation of the evaluation. A workshop was held in August 2016 with key stakeholders to introduce the project and seek feedback on our proposed consultation tools. A separate workshop was held with a cultural reference group (CRG) which will work with the project team throughout the two year project. Over the next 6 months, as ethics approval is sought and obtained and the Evaluation Framework is completed and able to be published, a number of documents will be made available.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular updates about the evaluation.

Archived News

Presentation at the joint Ottawa and ANZAHPE Conference

HCA Staff Consultant, Carla Cowles, recently presented a poster at the joint Ottawa and Australasian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE) Conference held in Perth in March this year.

The presentation was related to HCA’s current study for the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) which is looking at the supply and demand for Public Health Physicians in Australia to conduct a labour market analysis and provide estimates for the profession for up to 2025.


The focus of HCA’s presentation was on the method being employed to obtain estimates of the demand for Public Health Physicians. Traditional methods of workforce planning estimate demand through ‘service utilisation’. However, based on previous studies conducted by HCA, this method is not a useful approach for Public Health Medicine due to the highly varied nature of the work.

Therefore in the current study HCA will be looking at estimating demand for the workforce by adopting an evidence-based ‘Best-practice’ approach with a focus on ‘areas or practice’ of Public Health Medicine understood through a ‘role delineation’ lens.

Consultations with workforce are currently underway, including a survey of AFPHM Fellows to obtain an accurate estimate of current supply.


The outcomes from the project will assist with:

  • improved planning and training of the workforce
  • advocating for a ‘best practice’ way of deploying and developing the Public Health Physicians workforce at a government and policy level
  • obtaining of a valid method for estimating demand scenarios for the workforce

For more information about this project please contact Carla Cowles or Lee Ridoutt.

HCA a part of Irish health system reform

As the pace of public hospital funding reform in Australia, towards the more transparent model of activity based funding, seemingly is becoming less focused and certainly having a reduced profile, the Irish Government is pushing determinedly ahead to introduce a funding model based on activity (‘Money Follows the Patient’) to 38 of its largest hospitals. The Government’s intentions are best summarised in their document Activity-Based Funding Programme: Implementation Plan 2015 – 2017. The Plan can be downloaded here.


HCA’s Principal, Lee Ridoutt, leading a key workshop with Irish coders

In the last two years a transition has been occurring, and of course some hospitals are better prepared than others to adapt to the new funding approach. As a whole, the change is most at risk from poor quality of data on activity, especially episodes of care not being coded accurately and in a way which appropriately reflects their complexity, and therefore cost.
HCA has been supporting one of its key consultancy partners, Pavilion Health, who has a large contract with the Irish Healthcare Pricing Office (HPO), to improve the data quality. The project, commenced in June 2015 and due to be completed in May 2016, has several elements aimed at identifying the magnitude and nature of any data quality deficiencies, including a traditional auditing approach of the coding of a sample of episodes of care from a sample of hospitals, and broader statistical analysis of the entire 2014 data set. HCA’s contribution is to study the way coding services are managed in a selection of Irish hospitals (benchmarked against a theoretical ‘best practice’) and to identify interventions at both a hospital and systems level to improve management. As well, HCA is working with Professor Beth Reid to evaluate the HPO capacity to develop and support competent clinical coders and advise on the best workforce development approaches and required infrastructure.

As the project nears completion, some very valuable advice is being formulated to improve HPO’s workforce development infrastructure. In the area of coding services management, important research has ben completed in a space that is poorly covered in the academic literature, and it is hoped HCA’s research work, with Pavilion Health and HPO, will be converted post project into published articles.

Information about the project and especially HCA’s contribution is best obtained from HCA’s most involved staff members Lee Ridoutt and Victoria Hirst.

HCA mental health workforce report published

In late 2014 HCA was contracted to provide advice to the National Mental Health Commission as part of their development of a National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services, a seminal report on the future of mental health services for the Federal Minster of Health. The advice was primarily in regard to the workforce implications of the visionary new form the Commission wanted to take mental health services. HCA’s advice took the form of numerous meetings with the Commission’s officers and the CEO David Butt, but more particularly was provided in a just under 100 page report. The HCA report, along with other reports commissioned by NMHC were published on the 16th April, 2015, and can be downloaded here.

If you want to see also the Commission’s report to Government, it can be found here.

HCA’s growing specialisation: Mental Health Workforce

Over the last 3-4 years HCA has been incrementally accumulating a high level of expertise in mental healh workforce.

HCA is currently applying it’s mental health workforce expertise in a number of new projects including:

• The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) to undertook an assessment of basic mental health education required by staff employed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in rural and remote NSW service providers.

• Scoping the Australian community managed mental health sector’s workforce development needs in relation to the delivery of psychosocial disability support/services with the new NDIS funding framework, HCA will make recommendations about next steps and priorities to address these in the context of the national implementation of the NDIS.

• Undertaking an external evaluation of the Rural Adversity and Mental Health Program’s (RAMHP), in particular the program’s linkages and connections to mental health and community stakeholders. This process includes interviewing and surveying several stakeholder groups such as community mental health services, rural support/resilience workers, and the managers of public sector mental health services in rural Local Health Districts (LHDs).

• Providing the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) expert advice on the workforce requirements to support the commission’s vision and service plans for the future, presented to the Federal Minister for Health in the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services. HCA’s report has just been published and can be downloaded here.

• In conjunction with the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH), HCA completed a literature review of service models for mental health services for the Mid North Coast (MNC) Local Health District, identifying possible best practice service structures, resource distribution and new and innovative ways of service governance that support integrated service behaviours.