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Dr Lance Emerson, CEO, Victorian Agency for Health Information
Dr Lance Emerson
CEO, Victorian Agency for Health Information

I’m pleased to introduce the VAHI Year in review 2019–20 and present some of our many highlights from the year.

It’s been an extraordinary and challenging year. VAHI’s focus for the 2020 calendar year so far has been on assisting health services, clinicians, the Department and many others in COVID-19 efforts, while continuing to deliver our essential ‘business as usual’ activities. 

In early 2020, following a successful pilot, we were set to formally launch the VAHI Portal to deliver interactive data on quality, safety and performance to health services and clinicians. Following the rising COVID-19 cases in March 2020, we quickly adapted the VAHI Portal to provide staff across health services and government with access to COVID-19-related data, including emergency department presentations and cases by local government area. The Portal is being used as the ‘single source of truth’ for interactive COVID-19 reports in Victoria, and has received very positive feedback from health services, clinicians and government. 

Our rapid response to COVID-19 also included releasing VAHI specialist staff to assist in data analysis, epidemiological roles, population health surveillance and contact tracing, among many other tasks.

This necessary focus on COVID-19 required us to re-prioritise many of our strategic initiatives that were planned for the later part of 2019–20, as detailed in this report. That said, the release of our Strategic plan 2019–2022 in July 2019 remains a critical roadmap for the next three years, based on our mission to deliver trusted information to inform better decisions that improve the health and wellbeing of Victorians. It has helped us prioritise the activities that are critical to this mission, while continuing to support COVID-19 efforts.

In the first year of our three-year strategy, our focus was on delivering the foundations and enriching our products and services. We’ve made significant progress in those areas. Our work to enhance impact and broaden scope will provide a greater focus in 2020–21 and beyond.

Despite the challenges, and following an Addendum to the Corporate plan 2019–2020 in March 2020 as a result of changed work proprieties due to COVID-19, I am pleased to report that VAHI has successfully delivered 100% of its single-year projects in 2019–20. Our portfolio of multi-year projects and business as usual programs have also made steady progress and will continue to be delivered in 2020–21.

The VAHI Information Management Environment (VIME) and Portal project reached some major milestones over the past year. In November 2019 we provided Victorians easy-to-understand information on key quality and safety performance via the new Victorian Health Services Performance (VHSP) website. Soon after, we piloted the VAHI Portal for health services, working with clinicians and senior health service administrators to co-design further improvements ahead of its official launch in March 2020. The Portal is now accessible to authorised staff across all Victorian public health services.

The launch of the VAHI Data Request Hub early in July has simplified and streamlined our data request process, allowing us to complete more requests – up 18% on 2018–19.

Reforms to the Victorian Health Incident Management System (VHIMS) program have continued with the release of the first VHIMS statewide report in the program’s 12-year history. We successfully implemented the VHIMS Central Solution for smaller Victorian health services, and made significant progress towards the upcoming statewide tender.

We also improved the Victorian Health Experience Survey (VHES) program this year, most notably with more frequent reporting of results to Victorian public health services. Innovation is a key driver in our search for a VHES provider, and we will seek to enhance the value of this meaningful data from patients. We’re working with health services to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of VHES questionnaires, which will transition to digital only from next year.

Our patient-reported outcomes (PROs) program continued in 2019–20 with a number of pilot projects, including the Utility of Patient-Reported Outcomes in Cancer Care project. We look forward to presenting the results of this project as benchmarked, health service level reports in 2020–21.

We have progressed our work with clinical quality registries (CQRs) to monitor the quality of health care within specific clinical domains and settings. VAHI’s CQR linkage project, the first of its kind in Australia, has continued with four new CQRs providing VAHI with complete datasets in 2019–20. In another Australian first, we included CQR data in the Board safety and quality report in May 2020.

This year marked the first year of population health surveillance being included in VAHI’s strategic objectives, with our goal being to provide a more comprehensive picture of Victoria’s health. Among many highlights was the release of the state’s first in-depth investigation into food insecurity and its determinants. 

Responding to the needs of partners and stakeholders

VAHI’s stakeholder engagement program is designed to ensure we provide meaningful data and information to support quality and safety improvements.

Our collaborative co-design process supported the redevelopment of the Board safety and quality report, with the first release in November 2019. We’ve since received positive feedback from health service boards on both the report itself, as well as the collaborative approach taken to make the improvements.

We’ve also made changes to our regular Inspire report including a shift towards sector specific reporting with the release of Inspire: Mental health. This is the first of many specialist Inspire reports we will release in the coming years.

As part of our continuing focus on contributing to the strategic agendas of the Department and Safer Care Victoria (SCV), this year we commenced work in supporting the Department to progress value-based healthcare initiatives, identified as a key reform priority. While our work is in its early stages, we aim to release an interactive, digital report focused on ‘Best Care’ in Victoria later in 2020.

We’re also active at a national level. This year VAHI represented Victoria on many working groups and committees, including the National Health Reform Agreement working group and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Strategic Committee for National Health Information. These forums provide an opportunity to advocate for initiatives focused on improving health quality and safety in Victoria. A priority for VAHI has been advocating for increased access to Medicare Benefits Scheme and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, to allow for a more complete picture of Victoria’s health system. This work will continue into 2020–21.


I’d like to acknowledge and thank our stakeholders and partners from across the health sector for their support and engagement with us. It has been a pleasure working together for another year to drive further improvement in our health system.

I’d also like to thank Ms Kym Peake, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, and the Victorian Government for their ongoing leadership and support through what has been an unprecedented year for health in Victoria.

To our colleagues in the Department and SCV, we always value your collaboration and support. Thank you.

And finally, I’d like to thank our brilliant staff here at VAHI for their hard work. Our team has adapted to changes in workloads and working environments this year, while continuing to bring consistent commitment, high competence and creative innovation to our work.

Page last updated: 26 Oct 2020