09 November 2022

VAHI CEO Dr Lance Emerson

How long have you been with VAHI/what was your background before working here? 

I’ve been at VAHI for nearly five years. Before VAHI I was CEO of the peak group for Australia’s 33,000 pharmacists, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Before then I was CEO of a peak child-health research collaborative - the Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

I’ve worked in health my whole life, my undergraduate was in physiology and genetics, with post-graduate in primary health care and pharmacy. My passion is in using clinical metrics for driving improvement in healthcare, with my PhD focused on use of shared clinical metrics to improve secondary prevention of coronary health disease.

I’m also on the Board of Red Cross Lifeblood, and volunteer for Orange Sky St Kilda  - a charity providing mobile laundry and shower facilities primarily for homeless people. I’m also a volunteer board director for Bicycles for Humanity - recycling bikes for those who need them for transport to education or work.

Brief overview of your role and your vision for the division 

I see my role as helping facilitate excellence in people - enabling staff to bring their best selves to work, and to constantly improve how we are analysing and reporting quality, safety, performance and population health outcomes of the Victorian health system.

My vision for VAHI is simple - to be the most effective health information agency in Australia, by ensuring we are delivering trusted information to inform better decisions that improve the health and wellbeing of Victorians.  

Key recent achievements for the division                                                           

When I joined VAHI in 2018, we were a small administrative office of about 30 very committed and competent staff, with all of our reports being emailed to services as PDF’s.

Data acquisition and quality assurance for the sector were based within another division in the Department, we had no data linkage capacity, and our reports were generally the existing suite of reports provided for some time.

Following a lot of listening and understanding needs of health services and clinicians, we set about an ambitious plan over four years to reform our report strategy and becoming a ‘full service’ data and information agency, moving to digital and interactive reporting, and increasing our analytics maturity.

I’m really proud of what we have achieved in the past few years. Whilst we still have a way to go, we have a number of Australian ‘firsts and bests’, including:

  • the most sophisticated interactive reporting portal in the country, providing risk adjusted and peer comparative data for services and clinicians
  • one of the most advanced data linkage agencies in Australia, providing more linkage than any other jurisdiction. We are also currently the only linkage agency to access Commonwealth data, all with half the staff of our NSW counterparts
  • a highly competent and dedicated health service data team, linked closely with the sector and department - to ensure data quality and effective use of those data
  • one of them most sophisticated data integrity programs in Australia - taking a risk-based approach and using sophisticated analytics to identify data anomalies and ensuring coding for clinical truth
  • the first data and analytics fellowship program of its kind in Australia, linking with clinicians and data experts to not only enable their access to data but also amplify our innovation and impact
  • leading continuous improvement in analytics through oversight of the Departmental Analytics Strategy
  • providing a range of ‘Australian first’ reports, including reporting on risk adjusted hospital acquired complications, quality and safety in private hospitals, low value care, and health service Board reporting, to name just a few
  • leading Australia in population health reporting, particularly in those determinants of health
  • the most comprehensive long-COVID survey undertaken in Australia to date
  • securing an information sharing agreement with Primary Health Networks in Victoria, and accessing general practice data to provide optics on the full patient journey.

Upcoming work and strategic directions

The next stage of VAHI’s evolution will be focused on two main areas - accessing and reporting data in closer to real time, and then facilitating more advanced analytics and intelligence, including linked data.

We are well on our way down this path - which necessarily involves a lot of areas, not only within the Department but also externally. These reforms will help facilitate what I’ve heard from services and clinicians - the need for more timely data in some of the clinical metrics that are responsive to immediate action.

We are also working hard to derive more insights from the data we do have. I will be appointing a Chief Analytics Officer to lead this reform, facilitating an uplift in capacity and competency across the board, to ensure Victoria leads the country in health system analytics.

I’m really excited about our next challenges - stay tuned through this newsletter for more!