Evaluation and monitoring of primary health care requires the establishment and maintenance of an appropriate data system. This study reviews the application and effectiveness of the Communicare data management system in the delivery of health services to the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Key demographic fields (sex, date of birth and Aboriginal status) were examined for completeness (whether the date fields were all completed and correct when compared with the paper file) while the ‘conditions’ field was examined for accuracy. Three chronic diseases (diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease) in adults and age-specific incidence for four acute diseases (otitis media, gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infection and skin infection) in children were included.
Completeness of chosen demographic fields was 100% for date of birth and sex and 98% for Aboriginal status. Chronic conditions matched the paper files 100%, while the recording of acute conditions was incomplete. Among older adults (≥55 years) the prevalences of diabetes, chronic kidney disease and hypertension were 43%, 42% and 39% respectively. Age-specific incidence of acute conditions was highest in the 0–4 years age group where 25% had had at least one episode of otitis media and 20% at least one episode of skin infection.
The recording of demographic and chronic disease data was complete, but lower for acute conditions. Routinely collected data have a number of limitations, but nonetheless are a feasible way to establish population health indices, particularly for chronic diseases for this remote health service with minimal expenditure and effort. These rates provide useful baselines for monitoring and evaluating the impact of service delivery on health outcomes. This audit provides an indication of the accuracy of routinely collected data in the electronic system compared to the paper medical records, which have traditionally been considered the gold standard. Data collected on chronic disease information were accurate and clinically useful for health service planning, monitoring and evaluation. Acute disease data were not accurate enough to be clinically useful.