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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Health Department under fire as primary health network (PHN) model fails to deliver

Health Industry Hub | March 11, 2024 |

Pharma News: In a recent audit, the Department of Health and Ageing has come under fire for failing to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Primary Health Network (PHN) model in achieving its objectives.

The comprehensive examination, conducted by Auditor General Grant Hehir, also highlighted significant deficiencies in the Information Technology (IT) systems used to monitor the performance of Australia’s PHNs, urging the Health Department to adopt a more robust and purpose-built solution.

Established by the health department in 2015 with the aim of enhancing efficiency, service quality, and healthcare access, PHNs are non-government organisations funded through government grants, receiving a substantial $11.6 billion over the past nine years. Currently, 29 PHN providers operate across 31 regions in Australia, addressing diverse areas such as Aboriginal health, population health, workforce, digital health, aged care, and substance abuse.

Despite these vital contributions, the audit report reveals a concerning lack of oversight in terms of performance management by the Health of Department. Auditor General Grant Hehir stated, “Health has not demonstrated that the PHN delivery model is achieving its objectives,” emphasising the need for improved monitoring and evaluation.

One significant finding of the audit was the inadequate performance of the IT systems employed to assess PHN performance. The PHN Program Electronic Reporting System (PPERS), introduced in 2019, was criticised for its limited capacity to validate and analyse data, hindering the generation of comprehensive compliance and performance reports.

The audit report makes eight recommendations, with a central focus on implementing a “fit-for-purpose IT system for administering Primary Health Networks that supports the accurate capture and reporting of compliance and performance information.” This underscores the crucial need for a technological infrastructure that aligns with the scope and complexity of the PHN model.

In response to the findings, Department of Health Secretary, Blair Comley, acknowledged the need for improvement, emphasising the importance of “stronger governance to ensure compliance with requirements, improved performance measures, further data assurance, and risk oversight, enhanced performance reporting that is timelier and more transparent.” However, he expressed caution regarding recommendation 7, indicating that the implementation of a suitable IT system would depend on government funding decisions.

Auditor General Hehir asserted the necessity for robust evaluation frameworks when developing new government programs and increased transparency regarding grant expenditure.

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