The Department of Department of Veterans' Affairs believes a new data mart is addressing many long-term deficiencies in its use and collection of the data needed to help administer its Veteran's Home Care (VHC) program.
A new Australian National Audit Office report has recommended DVA collect and use data, such as entry and exit data, to improve integration and coordination and to further assist it in managing current and future demand for VHC services.
And it's Veterans' Home Care audit finds that while DVA had developed a reasonable approaching to estimating the number of veterans likely to receive VHC services in 2000, it had failed to develop a comprehensive profile of the eligible VHC population to help with the budgeting and delivery of services.
Access to VHC is not automatic. Eligible veterans must have a Gold or White Repatriation Health Card and be an Australian defence force veteran or mariner, or a war widow/widower of an Australian defence force veteran or mariner. The ANAO report recommends profiling to help with planning and to ensure needy veterans are receiving VHC services.
While the DVA has accepted the recommendations, it says it has already taken a number of steps to address deficiencies, including development of the Veterans' Home Care "data mart" to allow detailed analyses of VHC recipients, and implementation of an enhanced VHC assessment instrument for collection of entry and exit data.
The Home Care data mart is only one of many data marts which have either been developed or are in production as part of DVA's Departmental Management Information System (DMIS). DMIS is an integrated suite of information management systems including a data warehouse, business-focussed data marts and end-user business intelligence products allowing end users to perform both routine reporting and sophisticated analysis of business information. Other data marts include ones for private hospitals, community nursing, pharmacy, financial reporting, compensation business processing, and the executive decision support system.
DVA is required to deliver health and other care services promoting self-sufficiency, well-being and quality of live to Australia's half million war veterans, and works with providers, the veteran and service communities to ensure that programs meet the needs of veterans and serving and former members of the Australian Defence Force. It also provides a range of health and community care services. The VHC program, designed to help veterans remain longer in their own homes, has been running since January 2001 with an annual budget of $85 million.
Since VHC is a budget-capped program and veterans are not automatically entitled to receive services, DVA manages information about the program to avoid raising expectations which can't be met. The ANAO found that while DVA has provided information to veterans, it has not evaluated whether this communication has been effective in reaching all eligible veterans or whether the information distributed is clear, accurate and appropriate.
One of DVA's main sources of data about VHC and veterans receiving services is the information entered online onto the standard veteran assessment form. But the ANAO found DVA neither required contracted agencies to ask veterans all questions on the form, which affects the consistency of data produced by the VHC systems, nor aggregated the information. It said this failure to maximize use of information gathered through the assessment form was inhibiting DVA's ability to describe the characteristics of veterans in the program, evaluate VHC service levels, and plan for the delivery of VHC in the future.
The report also identified other IT issues, citing a 2003 University of New South Wales evaluation that found 49 per cent of assessors stated that the VHC IT system did not function well most of the time. DVA told the ANAO that, as the first DVA program to rely significantly on the Internet for administration, the IT aspects of the DHC program presented challenges and issues.
It also found agencies described DVA's IT system as often unreliable, although ANAO says this has improved since the beginning of the program. The audit report found such system instability affected Agencies, which relied entirely on the system to undertake and approve individual veteran assessments.
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