Research and evaluation of the National Health Call Centre Network
Australian Healthcare and Hospital Association
Duration: September 2012
As one of the services the National Health Call Centre Network (NHCCN) provides, healthdirect is a 24-hour telephone health advice line staffed by Registered Nurses to provide expert health advice. AHSRI, in collaboration with the Deeble Institute, undertook a preliminary analysis of the healthdirect utilisation data through the lens of health need in order to determine which priority population sub-groups may be under utilising the services it provides.
What we did
The priority populations were those identified by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare as groups with poorer health or more vulnerable to illness than the general population. It was assumed that, if the service was not available, some callers may have gone to their local emergency department (ED), while others may have gone to their General Practitioner (GP), contacted a local after-hours GP service or the ambulance service. Publicly available data from these other services were used to compare with utilisation of healthdirect by the priority sub-populations.
Some differences were found for various age and sex groups. For example, males and older people tended to under-utilise healthdirect. On the other hand young children and females aged between 20-39 years tended to utilise healthdirect more than other services. This showed that healthdirect has been effective in its objective to provide advice for infants and for 20-39 year old women. The analysis also found that Indigenous people may be under-utilising healthdirect when data on ED presentations was used as an indicator of health need. Indigenous people also have a higher burden of disease, which suggests that they have a greater need for health services such as healthdirect than non-Indigenous people.