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Kevin Harper’s Blog: Symposium – where are the services? Service mapping and decision support for planners

By August 25, 2016 No Comments

Blog: Symposium – where are the services? Service mapping and decision support for planners

Kevin Harper

This symposium revealed the future possibility and felt like the start of a transformational conversation. I must confess the presentations and discussion responded to personal interest, concerns and questions regarding how we join up equity, population, system and service needs.

An expert and experienced panel of Meredith Harris, Luis Salvader-Carulla, Janet Hopkins and John Crawshaw brought a varied personal and national view. But, this was balance by a common focus on people and collective interest in what we can learn from variation.


Better planning

The way services are planned and purchased are changing. No longer can we stick with more of the same; a normative approach based on what we have done before and what is done elsewhere.

Now we need to monitor our understanding of populations and make decisions based on their need. This increased emphasis on regional planning is complex and needs to consider multiple factors including demographic and psycho-social issues as well as the service response at secondary and primary levels. Also, we cannot ignore significant difference based on locality, whether our populations live in a city, urban or rural area or remotely.

We are developing capability in service mapping built on international experience in both Australia and New Zealand. The approach may differ but the opportunity to learn is great, not least from each other.

Of course, building this capability is not without challenge. All approaches face the challenge of developing and using data, whether it be what we collect, how we collect it, and how we use it. Our experts warned of limitations from inconsistent units of analysis and different terminology and the risk of unintended or unwanted consequences of using data.

Learning from variation

Whether you have developed the capability to map services as in Australia or you are developing a population outcome framework for New Zealand, there is a clear intent to learn from and respond to variation.

Across Australia we are getting a picture – literally – of the service we offer to who. We can see differences or gaps in service provision, regionally, nationally and internationally and ask new and guided questions about the impact and opportunity.

In New Zealand, responding to difference in the equity of outcomes will be a national expectation in commissioning services. This will consider the mix of services necessary to deliver better outcomes for people and identify gaps.