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Head to Health Data Management System

The Australian Government has appointed North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) to run backend systems and support for the national Head to Health program until at least 2026.

NWMPHN supports Head to Health through:

  • national telephony infrastructure
  • an application for workflow management and data collection
  • a consumer experience platform
  • national analytics and reporting
  • communities of practice.

These are backed by security architecture and data governance that adhere to the latest industry best practices, including regular testing and daily monitoring.

National telephony infrastructure

Head to Health handles more than 7,000 inbound calls each month from people seeking mental health advice and support. Anyone in Australia can call 1800 595 212 to be connected to an experienced mental health clinician, who can assess their needs and help them get the right support close to where they live.

NWMPHN’s telephony infrastructure underpins this nation-wide service, supporting a seamless experience for people seeking mental health support.

It provides all 31 PHNs with an efficient “front door” into their service networks, allowing each PHN to focus on ensuring every person gets the appropriate care in their local area.

Workflow management and data collection

Shared telephony infrastructure means all PHNs can also derive local and national insights from contact data. This enables mental health teams to view and respond to trends, such as increased calls for support during pandemics, bushfires and other emergencies.

More than 500 staff at 25 PHNs also use the Head to Health Data Management System for an efficient clinical assessment and referral workflow.

The system incorporates the Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool (IAR-DST). The IAR-DST guides clinicians in making consistent, evidence-based decisions, enabling them to facilitate patients’ access to timely, local and clinically appropriate care.

The system is scalable and able to be rapidly adapted at a local PHN level, enabling it to be tailored to the needs of diverse and place-based patient populations.

For example, assessment and referral questions can be modified for patient groups, such as people directly affected by natural disasters, while remaining part of the same IAR-DST intake and reporting workflow.

The system can be customised to support various sectors and specific PHN-commissioned services, such as alcohol and other drug support, suicide prevention, First Nations, and more.

We have also implemented various application programming interfaces (APIs). These enable secure connections to authorised case management software vendors such as rediCASE and Fixus, avoiding the need for duplicated data, and helping clients who no longer need to repeat their stories over and over when they are passed from Head to Health to a different service provider.

Consumer experience platform

The Head to Health Data Management System includes a consumer experience survey. This means that every person who contacts the Head to Health phone service can provide anonymous feedback on the support they receive.

NWMPHN partnered with Cemplicity to deliver the survey, providing PHNs with access to a comprehensive and secure reporting portal that enables survey responses to be viewed and analysed in real time.

NWMPHN Head to Health flowchart 2023
NWMPHN’s Head to Health Data Management System underpins best practice mental health care for thousands of Australians each month.

National analytics and reporting

By sharing infrastructure and data management processes, PHNs can drastically reduce their resource costs, and avoid the need to develop local systems for managing and reporting on mental health intake.

NWMPHN has built a secure environment with systems that enable key datasets to be linked together. It integrates with various reporting tools such as Microsoft Power BI and custom-built software using the Python programming language.

An API is in place to ingest data into the system, so that PHNs not using the web application can still include their data in national reporting.

The system also facilitates uploads to the Australian Government’s Primary Mental Health Care Minimum Data Set (PMHC MDS) portal.

Our technical development team has established a customisable and scalable reporting workflow. This makes previously onerous reporting requirements fast and easy to produce for individual PHNs from a central location.

Reporting processes that were previously duplicated by PHNs across the country can now be completed in minutes, instead of days. This ensures more time is spent drawing insights from data than working out how to analyse it.

Communities of practice

NWMPHN coordinates 2 communities of practice for PHN staff:

  • National Head to Health Data Community of Practice
  • National Head to Health Intake Quality Improvement Community of Practice

These groups meet regularly and are supported by NWMPHN’s technical development and service delivery teams.

Through a culture of user-driven development and improvement, PHNs are driving more efficient ways of working and information sharing, which ultimately enables better care for people across Australia.

Security and data governance

Our Head to Health Data Management System web application and data is hosted by Amazon Web Services. It is protected through various means including:

  • the Head to Health Cybersecurity Framework
  • the Head to Health Data Governance Framework
  • regular penetration testing and risk reviews
  • robust security controls including multi-factor authentication, user logs, and role-based permissions.

Use our Head to Health Data Management System

By using our system, local mental health intake and service provision teams can increase their focus on driving better patient experiences and outcomes.

The system is open source and can be modified to meet the requirements of PHNs and other organisations operating mental health services.

We can supply instructions, code, training, and support for partner organisations to use it. Our level of involvement can be low or high, depending on each organisation’s requirements and capacity.

To find out more, please contact