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Evaluating Australia’s Rural Primary Health Services


  • The efficacy of an allied health practitioner program for rural people needed to be reviewed.
  • Abt interviewed a broad range of stakeholders and analyzed changes in service usage data.
  • Abt’s findings informed a new plan and will offer practical options for addressing local needs.
The Challenge

There is clear evidence that individuals living within rural and remote areas are more likely to suffer from disease compared to metropolitan areas.  The lack of health services prompted Australia’s Department of Health to implement the Rural Primary Health Services (RPHS), which in turn commissioned services through a Primary Health Network (PHN). The PHN focuses on addressing chronic conditions through accessible allied health services in rural areas. With scarcity of funding and high needs, the program was due to be reviewed for its efficiency and effectiveness.

The Approach

Abt Global conceptualised and developed a plan for process and impact evaluations, in close consultation with the PHN. A literature review was undertaken to benchmark the current services and explore the evidence-based options to provide allied health chronic care services within rural areas. Current service data was used to measure service outcomes. Consumer, service provider and health workforce interviews were also conducted to provide insights into appropriateness of current services, barriers and enablers for improving the services.

The Results

As a result of Abt’s extensive analysis of qualitative and quantitative information, the PHN found that, although the current models of service delivery are working in certain regions, changes were required within specific geographical areas. The results highlight the importance of tailoring services to regional needs for delivering efficient and effective services. The evaluation also informed the future program re-design and commissioning arrangements.