Australian Mental Health Outcomes and Classification Network
Sharing Information to Improve Outcomes

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National Mental Health Benchmarking Project

First conceptualised during the Second National Mental Health Plan, the National Mental Health Benchmarking Project formally commenced in May 2006 and ceased in November 2008 and established demonstration benchmarking forums within the four main program areas of public sector mental health services (adult, child and adolescent, older persons and forensic).

The project was a collaborative initiative between States, Territories and the Australian Government and had four core objectives:

  • To promote the sharing of information between organisations to increase understanding and acceptance of benchmarking as a key process to improve service quality.

  • To identify of the benefits, barriers and issues arising for organisations in the mental health field engaging in benchmarking activities.

  • To understand what is required to promote such practices on a wider scale.

  • To evaluate the suitability of the national mental health performance framework (domains, sub domains and key performance indicators) as a basis for benchmarking and identifying areas for future improvement of the framework and its implementation.

The project included a number of activities:

  • development and dissemination of resources including the Project Manual, technical specifications (for the national indicators and indicators developed or utilised through‐out the project), data‐entry workbooks, research reports, and presentations;

  • construction, analysis and reporting of indicators, including the 13 phase one national indicators, the 50 plus supplementary indicators included in the initial comparative indicator documents and the varied additional indicators developed throughout the project;

  • initiation of special projects developed within each of the forums, such as the good practice guide developed by the adult forum in relation to readmission rates, the staff activity survey and community discharges projects in the child and adolescent forum, the seclusion project in forensic and length of stay activity in the older persons forum;

  • provision of support to all participants during and between forums for a range of issues including indicator construction and interpretation and promoting support within organisations;

  • dissemination and discussion of outputs within participating organisations to facilitate the sharing of information and gaining of knowledge; and

  • convening of two technical specifications workshops held in May and June 2006, two National Mental Health Benchmarking Meetings held in May 2006 and November 2008, and thirty‐two benchmarking forums (eight for each program) conducted between August 2006 and July 2008.

National Mental Health Benchmarking Project Resources

The core set of indicators used in the National Mental Health Benchmarking Project were included in the first edition of 'Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services', released in 2004. The document defined a mental health specific performance framework (the Framework) and a set of ‘phase one’ indicators. This represented the mental health sectors’ first attempt to articulate a common framework and a standardised set of indicators to support benchmarking and guide quality improvement at the level of the mental health service organisation.

A second edition of the resource was based primarily on learnings and advice from States and Territories and the output of the National Mental Health Benchmarking Project.

The third edition of this work brings together the most current statement of the national mental health performance framework and draws on advances made by states and territories as the framework has been progressively implemented and refined. The indicators in this third edition are available via a data portal from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

To facilitate the dissemination of information about the benchmarking project and to assist in the development of benchmarking activities in Australia’s mental health services, the organisations participating in the four Benchmarking Project streams agreed that the following information would be made available.

Project Manuals Part 1 – 3

Benchmarking Project Manual Part 1: General information for participating organisations aimed to assist services participating in the forums by providing basic information about: the background to, and objectives of, the national benchmarking project; the current status of benchmarking in Australian mental health services; the expected benefits for participating organisations; how the forums will be coordinated; the plannned timetable of activities; how the forums will be run; what information will be benchmarked; and how the project will be evaluated.

Benchmarking Project Manual Part 2: Basic concepts to guide indicator development and desirable attributes of performance measurement systems provided useful background to key concepts in key performance indicators. The first section describes six key issues upon which a shared understanding is needed and which are central to the design of any performance measurement framework within the health care industry. The second section summarises the attributes of performance measurement systems described in the literature as important to success. They emphasise that an effective performance measurement approach does not come easily and requires careful planning.

Benchmarking Project Manual Part 3 V1.1: Technical specifications for the national KPIs was developed to guide organisations on how to prepare the national key performance indicators (KPIs) from their locally available data. The focus is on the 13 national KPIs described in the document ‘Key Performance Indicators for Australian Public Mental Health Services’ as these were the main indicators used in the benchmarking forums.

The National Mental Health Benchmarking Project: Evaluation Report outlines the results of the evaluation of the National Project and the extent to which the project met its core objectives. The information is primarily sourced from participants’ experience of two years of benchmarking activity. The evaluation shows that benchmarking is a useful tool to enhance understanding of initiatives to improve service delivery and support quality. It also highlights that sustainable benchmarking activity is a complex and evolutionary process, influenced by a range of factors, especially organisational capacity and commitment.

National Mental Health Benchmarking Project Forums

Each forum consisted of between four and eight mental health service organisations from across six jurisdictions. The forums were aligned with the main program streams within the mental health sector. Resources and reports from the activities undertaken by participants are available for each forum.

Child and Adolescent Forum

Adult Forum

Older Person Forum

Forensic Forum