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Initiatives to Address External Causes of Death Data Quality Issues
The ABS first highlighted a number of data quality issues in relation to external causes of death in the publication Causes of Death, Australia, 2004 (cat. no. 3303.0) on 14 March 2006. The ABS continues to develop ongoing strategies for identifying and managing concerns and issues regarding quality. The process to improve the quality of causes of death data will be progressive and continuous. Results achieved from the Indigenous Mortality Strategy will also have an impact on the quality of causes of death data.
The specific strategies and initiatives that are particularly relevant to the achievement of these objectives are:
New mortality processing system
For the production of causes of death statistics from the 2006 reference period, the ABS will be using a new mortality processing system. This new system will incorporate the latest version of the MMDS software (footnote 2) and also contains a new suite of quality control features.
Moving to a later version of MMDS will allow the ABS to take advantage of increased functionality, particularly with regard to the SuperMICAR component of the MMDS system (which automatically encodes medical cause of death information). Concurrently with the move to the new version of MMDS, the ABS is undertaking a redevelopment of all the components of mortality processing. Many functions which are currently performed manually will be automated. This will result in coders spending more time coding and less time on administrative computing tasks e.g. moving files/records through the MMDS software.
Review of ABS external causes coding practices
Over the next couple of years, the ABS will work with experts, seeking their assistance in guiding the development of new business rules for ABS coding of external causes. While this exercise is not expected to result in dramatic changes in the data, the aim is to standardise and improve the rules.
The Suicide Coding Review Working Group has recently been established by the ABS to assist in improving the quality of national causes of death data. The working group is expected to help support and facilitate the following outcomes:
The Suicide Coding Review Working Group is undertaking a review of current ABS and other Australian organisations suicide coding practices. The review will include reviewing the following issues:
The Suicide Coding Review Group may make recommendations for ABS consideration with regard to the issues investigated. Final responsibility and accountability for practices and data quality will rest with the ABS.
Coding of open coronial cases
An investigation will be undertaken in 2007, in conjunction with key external stakeholders including the NCCH, to determine options for the treatment of open coronial cases. Currently the ABS codes an open coronial case based on the information available at the cessation of processing for that particular reference year. This generally leads to the allocation of a non-specific code (which is not subsequently revised). Options will be investigated which would allow for open coronial cases to be allocated a code which specifically indicates that the case has still not been finalised. These cases could then be coded upon finalisation of the coronial investigation and revised data published by the ABS on a year of occurrence basis.
Ongoing analysis and monitoring of data quality
The quality of external causes data has been the particular focus of careful validation and analysis in the last two reference years.
The ABS will continue to build on its existing quality assurance measures in order to monitor data quality as comprehensively as possible, and to inform users through explanatory material provided with statistical outputs and through publications such as this. The new ABS processing system will facilitate the measurement of quality through greater flexibility and internal access to the data, and allow further and more comprehensive studies to be undertaken.
RELEASE OF DATA
Increased availability of metadata
Over the next several years, the ABS plans to review the metadata (information about the data) available for causes of death statistics in order to allow users to make more informed use of the data, including ability to compare between different data collections. Examples of the metadata which is planned to be released include:
Review of outputs (including release dates)
The Causes of Death collection is a long-standing ABS collection. The main outputs are currently a detailed summary publication (Causes of Death, Australia, cat. no. 3303.0), a supplementary publication about suicides (Suicides, Australia, cat. no. 3309.0) and a unit record file (URF). There is also a large demand for information consultancy services. Data are not revised after release.
A review of causes of death data products will be undertaken by the ABS during 2007-08 to ensure that a suite of products is put together which better meets user needs, takes advantage of the wealth of information available from the collection, is readily accessible, released in a timely manner, easy to produce, and provides additional analytical material. The production of new outputs will be facilitated by the introduction of the new, more efficient, ABS processing system. Options for consideration could include early release of data for natural causes, or some form of revision of external causes data.
A proposal for a revised causes of death product suite is expected to be made available to users for comment in the next six months. To express interest in this review, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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