Comparing district health boards’ performance in infection rates to community mental health care is possible in a new interactive online tool just launched by the Health Quality & Safety Commission.

The interactive dashboard takes information from a range of published sources – including the Commission’s quality and safety markers, the primary care and inpatient patient experience surveys, the Atlas of Healthcare Variation and data from the Ministry of Health – and puts it together in one place. A simple-to-read, interactive chart allows users to see the data.

Commission Director Health Quality Intelligence, Richard Hamblin said the interactive tool made it easy for users to ‘drill down’ into the data without having to look through several different areas on the Commission’s website.

‘We wanted to make it easy for providers and consumers to access the various information that the Commission publishes about DHBs at a glance, including how this changes over time.’

However, Mr Hamblin stresses the new tool is not a way to rank DHBs from ‘good’ to ‘bad’.

‘The different measures cannot be combined to give a meaningful “overall score”.’

Instead, the dashboard is designed to highlight patterns. It is divided by domains of quality, such as safety, effectiveness and equity, and related measures are co-located within that.

‘For example, various infection rates sit next to each other,’ Mr Hamblin says.

‘This means that a cluster of dots in a similar position is likely to point to a consistent pattern for an issue. This can be checked by hovering over each dot to read details of each measure.

‘This is another step towards openness and transparency in our health sector. There have been some great achievements made in these areas by DHBs, and we want to make sure they’re easy to view and understand.’

He says clinicians and managers have been actively involved during the dashboard’s development. It’s the first time data has been displayed in this way in New Zealand, and there are only a few other examples internationally.

‘Increasing international evidence shows that using visualisations to make data easily understandable can help stimulate improvements,’ says Mr Hamblin.

You can click here for a list of frequently asked questions about the dashboard of health system quality. Below, the animation introducing the dashboard and the data it presents.


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  1. Just why do we think we need to “highlight patterns” or “comparing performances” within various DHBs? Why, actually, do we need DHBs?? We Kiwis have exactly the same health needs, wherever we live. Sure, differing geographic positions make it difficult and more costly to supply equal benefits to all – but you don’t need 20 very expensive bureaucracies to figure out how to deal with that. The local member of parliament will lobby for any really special circumstances, if need be. DHBs can’t do a darned thing without permission from Wellington, anyway – they are not at all “independent”. Let us scrap all 20 of them – and save an awful lot of money.


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