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Open Access Research

National quality and performance system for Divisions of General Practice: early reflections on a system under development

Karen L Gardner1*, Beverly Sibthorpe12 and Duncan Longstaff1

Author Affiliations

1 Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

2 Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT, Australia

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Australia and New Zealand Health Policy 2008, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1743-8462-5-8

Published: 30 May 2008

Abstract

Background

Governments are increasingly introducing performance management systems to improve the quality and outcomes of health care. Two types of approaches have been described: assurance systems that use summative information for external accountability and internally driven systems that use formative information for continuous quality improvement. Australia recently introduced a National Quality and Performance System (NQPS) for Divisions of General Practice that has the dual purposes of increasing accountability and improving performance. In this article, we ask whether the framework can deliver on its objectives for achieving accountability and fostering performance improvement. We examine the system in terms of four factors identified in a recent systematic review of indicator systems known to improve their use. These are: involving stakeholders in development; having clear objectives; approach to data collection and analysis including using 'soft data' to aid interpretation; and feeding back information.

Results

We found that early consultative processes influenced system development. The system promotes the collection of performance information against defined program objectives. Data includes a mix of qualitative and quantitative indicators that are fitted to a conceptual framework that facilitates an approach to performance assessment that could underpin continuous quality improvement at the Division level. Feedback of information to support the development of quality improvement activities has not been fully developed.

Conclusion

The system currently has elements that, with further development, could support a more continuous quality improvement or assurance based approach. Careful consideration needs to be given to the development of methods for analysis and review of performance indicators, performance assessment and engagement with consumers. The partnership arrangement that supported early development could be expected to serve as an important vehicle for further development.