The evaluation of the National Minimum Data Sets (NMDSs) for Elective Surgery Waiting Times (removals data) and Elective Surgery Waiting Times (census data) was conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare for the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council.

The evaluation involved:

  • a review of utility, based on consultations with a variety of users of the NMDSs
  • a review of compliance; that is, the extent to which data were provided by states and territories in accordance with the specifications in the National health data dictionary.

The review also took into account changes in national reporting requirements, such as the reporting requirements for the Elective Surgery Waiting List Reduction Plan, an initiative of the Australian Government.

General recommendations

The evaluation concluded that the NMDSs for Elective Surgery Waiting Times (ESWT) were regarded by users as both highly useful and highly important, and should be retained. General recommendations were to:

  • improve the coverage of the NMDSs for ESWT to all public hospitals
  • clarify the scope of the collection, primarily through the revision of the Elective care type data element-used to identify patients awaiting elective surgery
  • improve the linkage of elective surgery waiting times records to admitted patient records, to allow for measures of waiting times to be routinely related to demographic, diagnosis and other information.
  • refine the data element definitions to ensure that the data collected are both relevant and comparable among jurisdictions
  • determine whether it is feasible to collect the existing data elements for the census and removals data within a single NMDS for ESWT.

Recommendations for data development

High priorities for data development include the revision of the data elements:

  • Indicator procedure, to ensure that relevant procedures are included. For 2006-07, almost 65% of records were not categorised into one of the existing 15 indicator procedures.
  • Clinical urgency, to improve comparability among jurisdictions. This data element indicates the urgency with which the patient requires elective surgery-within 30 days, within 90 days or at some time in the future.
  • Waiting list removal date, to clarify that this records the date on which the patient was removed from the elective surgery waiting list. For patients admitted for the awaited procedure, this will be the date of admission.
  • Waiting time at removal, to clarify that patients who are admitted for surgery on the same day as they are clinically assessed are in scope.