1st of June, 2016 - UPDATE regarding data collection expectations – ATAPS/MHSRRA MDS and the PMHC MDS [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

Hello all

As Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are aware, work has commenced on the design of a Primary Mental Health Care Minimum Data Set (PMHC MDS) and associated reporting arrangements.  This does not represent a ground up development but rather builds on the foundation established by the current ATAPS/MHSRRA minimum data set. 

The new Mental Health Schedule states:

  • The Department will develop specifications for a PMHC MDS and establish arrangements for reporting of data by PHNs by December 2016, using as a foundation the previous data collection and reporting arrangements established for the ATAPS and MHSRRA programs.
  • The Department will undertake this work in consultation with PHNs to ensure that all mandatory data are both relevant to monitoring achievement of the Key Objectives identified in Item B.3 subsection 1 of this Schedule and feasible for reporting.
  • Your Organisation must ensure all mandatory data is reported to the PMHC MDS as specified by the Department and achieving full compliance with reporting by 30 June 2017.

This schedule requirement has raised a number of questions from PHNs with some PHNs making preparations to change their client management systems to report on ‘First Level Data Items’ outlined in the data paper provided to them on 18 March 2016. This was an initial draft and further work is being undertaken in consultation with PHNs to finalise data items and definitions.   

As such it is important that PHNs hold off on making significant changes to their existing systems until the Department releases the agreed specifications for the new PMHC MDS. This is anticipated to take place in August 2016.

The Department’s expectations for PHNs with regard to data collection are set out below. 

Current Expectation:

  1. PHNs maintain their existing ATAPS/MHSRRA MDS whilst the redesign process is underway given the expectation that the new data collection system will build on this existing dataset.
  2. PHNs maintain any other existing data sets which are anticipated to impact on their future models of mental health activity.
  3. PHNs consider planning for their own future collections to inform the commissioning they anticipate undertaking. 

Future Collections:

It will remain important for both PHNs and the Department to collect data on patient services to support future activity in Australia.

The Department will be working with PHNs and the University of Melbourne/Strategic Data to identify data reporting and monitoring needs for all the services provided through the PHN primary mental health care flexible funding pool and develop an appropriate data collection system.  

This was discussed at the March PHN CEO Forum where a data paper was provided to PHNs, identifying how the MDS will be enhanced in the future to allow more flexibility for the transition of mental health activity into the PHN mental health flexible funding pool. 


The paper invited PHNs to indicate interest and nominate representatives for a small reference group to oversee the redesign of the existing ATAPS/MHSRRA MDS to collect client information for all service streams under the flexible funding pool.

A number of PHNs have responded and the first meeting of the group is expected in mid to late June. 

Process and timelines

The PMHC MDS will progress in stages, with initial priority to establish capacity to capture mental health nursing data previously maintained through the MHNIP session claim process administered by the Department of Human Services, along with other new service types that cannot be accommodated in the current ATAPS/MHSRRA system.

This is expected to be operational by October 2016 with release of an interim reporting system that will run alongside the current ATAPS/MHSRRA system. This will be followed by release in the first half of 2017 of the more comprehensive arrangement that brings together the ATAPS/MHSRRA data reporting with the new service type data.

This stage of development will aim to capture all client services commissioned by PHNs with the exception of those delivered through headspace centres which are covered by a specific collection managed by headspace national office. This will be considered in the second stage.


The Department appreciates that PHNs need to be aware of the specific data items they would need to report on to ensure that the commissioned services are collecting and reporting on such data items.  The Department is aiming to finalise the comprehensive specifications that define the required data by August 2016.


Further details will be distributed and shared through the necessary stakeholder groups as they become available. 

Alternatively should you have any immediate concerns or technical questions in regard to the collection of data for mental health please direct them to Strategic Data (responsible for the Minimum Data Set) at support@ataps-mds.com to discuss how to manage data entry during the interim period. 

Should you wish to provide input to the discussions you can do so by writing to PMHCSSInbox@health.gov.au

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The Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) initiative has a strong commitment to evaluation. As a consequence, The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics (CHPPE; formerly the Program Evaluation Unit - PEU) in association with Strategic Data Pty. Ltd. has been commissioned to provide evaluation support to Primary Health Networks implementing this initiative.

Purpose of the minimum dataset

The minimum dataset was developed to gather common, basic information from all Primary Health Networks implementing ATAPS, and therefore acts as an important evaluation tool. The minimum dataset is designed to capture de-identified, consumer-level information. The minimum dataset is invaluable in collecting information that provides:

  • a picture of the level of uptake of the projects (by GPs and other referrers, mental health professionals and consumers)
  • a description of the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of consumers
  • an overview of the services consumers are receiving
  • pre- and post-treatment consumer outcomes on standardised outcome measures.

Sociodemographic and clinical information are collected by the GP or referrer, and treatment information is collected by the mental health professional at each session. Importantly, the minimum dataset also captures consumer-level outcome data, which are collected by either/both the GP and mental health professional.

The minimum dataset system

The database is a web-based system allowing multiple users and regular reporting at a national level. The database is password-protected, so that only authorised personnel are able to access it to enter data and personnel from a given Primary Health Network are only able to access their own information.

The minimum dataset was launched in 2003. It has evolved with the changing requirements of the ATAPS program and as such continues to be periodically updated. Primary Health Networks are required to collect and enter the minimum dataset items as part of their ATAPS contracts with the Department of Health and Ageing. The data entered are periodically reported in aggregated form by The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics as part of their national evaluation work. This provides the opportunity to showcase the achievements of this major national initiative and highlights the importance of representation in the dataset by each Primary Health Network.

Evaluation Support

There are two components to ATAPS Evaluation Support:

Last modified: Thursday, 16 July 2015, 15:40:57.
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