(2001), "Net news", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 14 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijhcqa.2001.06214cag.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Keywords: Health, Welfare, Information, Australia
The site reviewed in this issue is http://www.aihw.gov.au/ which is the Website of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). AIHW is Australia's national agency for health and welfare statistics and information. The agency's mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians, and it aims to inform community discussion and decision making through national leadership in developing and providing health and welfare statistics and information.
The Institute was set up by an Act of Parliament to report to the nation on the state of its health and welfare. It is an independent agency, which works with many government and non-government bodies across the nation to generate reliable, regular and current facts and figures on the health and welfare of Australians.
The home page is a little sparse. It offers menu choices of About us, What's new, Data online, Publications and Feedback on the left hand side, and choices of FAQs, Links and Committees at the top. The main content is a choice of Subject Portals and About us, followed by click boxes that list the options. Portals, I discovered by following the link to "more", are collections of information of a similar type, brought together from across the different units within the Institute – on many Web sites these are called topics. The description of portals said that information about the different units contributing to a portal could be found by selecting Our Organisation from the drop down list under the Services title, but I was unable to find any such title. These are followed by a box that contains Latest Release and Featured Portal. The former presumably means the latest development, but this is not altogether clear from the description. At the time of my visit, it said "For information on our interactive data, check out our Data Online portal. At present, we have data on cancer, disability and morbidity". The Featured portal was the Knowledgebase, which was recommended "If you are interested in finding out more about data dictionaries and data standards …"
This was followed by the AIHW's mission statement.
Thus far, it was not particularly inviting, nor was it clear what is on offer. However, I did explore it further, and found it gave access to useful information.
The portals available are: Aged Care, Cancer, Cardiovascular Health, Children and Youth, Data Development, Disability, Drugs and Alcohol, Expenditure, Hospital Data, Housing Assistance, Knowledgebase, Labour Force, Mental Health, NHPA – Priority Areas (NHPA is National Health Priority Areas) and Population Health. Note that, rather irritatingly, it is not sufficient to select a portal from the drop down list and press return (common practice on most Web sites); it is necessary also to press the "go" button. Most of the titles are fairly self-evident, but "Knowledgebase" is not. The Knowledgebase is an electronic register of Australian health, community services, housing and related data definitions and standards. It includes information models, including the National Health Information Model, data element definitions, including the National Health Data Dictionary and the National Community Services Data Dictionary, national minimum data sets, indicators and their associated frameworks, including those for measures of the community at large, and for performance of service delivery. It also has a query system for identifying and accessing data definitions, either in sets or individually, a context-sensitive help system for the Knowledgebase and a feedback system for users to provide feedback to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on aspects of the Knowledgebase.
The front page of each of the portals provides a very brief description of what it is, and links to other Web pages.
The About Us option on the front page provides corporate information in the form of publications, media releases and corporate documentation about the Institute, what its mission and vision is and what it is chartered to undertake, information on the contribution that each of the Institute's units makes to the organisation, conferences and job opportunities. It also has a link to Data Online, which provides links to the following useful resources:
Interactive Disability Data Cube: this provides access to data held by the AIHW and a subset of the data from the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement Minimum Data Set (CSDA MDS) collection for services received by people with a disability on a snapshot day in 1999. The data are displayed in a multidimensional data cube that can be interrogated by using the drop down menus.
Interactive Cancer Data: this page contains links to two interactive databases, the cancer age specific database and the cancer age standardised database, with cancer incidence data for Australia for 1983-1997. The source of these data is the National Cancer Statistics Clearing House at the AIHW. The databases contain multidimensional representation of data, organised into dimensions to provide fast retrieval of data and cross tabulation facilities.
Interactive National Hospital Morbidity Data: this contains links to two interactive databases, containing information on the principal diagnoses of patients admitted to Australian hospitals. The first contains information for 1993-94 to 1997-98 and the second contains information for 1998-99. Slightly different classifications were used for each of these, which means that data for 1998-99 may not be exactly comparable with data for 1993-94 to 1997-98.
The knowledgebase described above.
National Cardiovascular Disease Database: this provides access to the data held by the National Centre for Monitoring Cardiovascular Disease at the AIHW. It contains information on deaths from cardiovascular diseases, prevalence of the traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular procedures and operations conducted in Australia.
This is not the easiest site to work with, in large part because the meanings of some of the titles and terminology are not self-evident. It requires some effort to get to know what is available and where to find it. It is also seems to have been written by people who are very familiar with what is available, and some of their descriptions are not very informative – which does not make it easy for the less well-informed to understand. However, it is worth making the effort.