case studies

Program monitoring and evaluation system

Client: Federal Department of Health; University of Melbourne

Deliverable: Evaluation tool for de-identified consumer mental health information


Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) is an initiative funded by the Department of Health. ATAPS allows GPs to refer hard-to-reach people with mild-to-moderate mental disorders to a mental health professional. Operating since 2001, the program is coordinated and managed by over 100 Divisions of General Practice and – since 2012 – by 61 Medicare Locals.

The Department of Health required monitoring and evaluation of the project in order to provide:

  • the level of uptake of the project (by GPs, other referrers, mental health professionals and consumers)
  • a description of the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of consumers
  • an overview of the services consumers were receiving
  • pre- and post-treatment consumer outcomes on standardised outcome measures.

The Department contracted the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics for this evaluation work. In order to deliver this contract, the University of Melbourne required a database to gather common, basic information from all Divisions of General Practice implementing ATAPS.


In 2003, Strategic Data designed and implemented the Minimum Dataset – a database that captures de-identified, consumer-level information. The database is supported by a web interface, allowing Divisions of General Practice to directly input or upload data collected by their referrers and mental-health professionals.

The ATAPS program has expanded over the years and the Minimum Dataset has been regularly updated to reflect these changes.

Password protected, the Minimum Dataset allows multiple users from each Medicare Local to access only that Medicare Local’s information. It can also generate reports to allow each Medicare Local to report back to the Department of Health regularly. Strategic Data provides a Help Desk service for any Medicare Local staff experiencing difficulties using the system.

The University of Melbourne is able to download data to produce periodic aggregate reports for the Department of Health.


The ATAPS Minimum Dataset is not just a data system, but a strategically designed application that can collect data from healthcare providers with a broad range of IT systems and data collection methods.

Most impressively, it has weathered over ten years of changes in government policy and direction. Strategic Data designed and delivered a well-constructed, flexible application that has successfully adapted to the department’s evolving requirements.

The success of the ATAPS MDS project is a result of the long-term embedded partnership between the client, users and Strategic Data.