Online version of the 2013-14 Department of Health Annual Report

Outcome 7: Hearing Services

A reduction in the incidence and consequence of hearing loss, including through research and prevention activities, and access to hearing services and devices for eligible people

Page last updated: 17 July 2019

Major Achievements

  • Launched the new Hearing Services Online (HSO) portal enabling faster access to hearing services for clients, reduced red tape for providers, and information for the general public.
  • All Australian Government Hearing Services Programme (programme) providers now use the online portal.

Challenges

  • Challenges experienced in 2013-14 included meeting the needs of clients and service providers while developing an online portal and website; continuing to streamline the administration of the programme to reduce unnecessary paperwork; and moving to a risk-based compliance regime. Extensive stakeholder consultation assisted in meeting these challenges effectively.

Looking Ahead

  • In 2014-15, the Department will further develop the programme online portal to enhance clients’ and providers’ access to information; manage, monitor and evaluate the operation of the programme to ensure timeliness, quality and consistency in the delivery of services to eligible clients; and harness opportunities presented by new technology, regulatory reform, and the changing preferences for clients seeking services.

Programme Contributing to Outcome 7

  • Programme 7.1: Hearing services

Division Contributing to Outcome 7

In 2013-14, Outcome 7 was the responsibility of Medical Benefits Division.

Outcome Strategy

Outcome 7 aims to reduce the incidence and consequences of avoidable hearing loss in the Australian community and provide access to high quality hearing services and devices. In 2013-14, the Department worked to achieve this Outcome by managing initiatives under the Programme outlined below.

Programme 7.1: Hearing services

Programme 7.1 aims to support access to quality hearing services for eligible clients, provide better targeted hearing services and support research into hearing loss prevention and management.

Support access for eligible clients to quality hearing services

The key to reducing the consequences of hearing loss in the Australian community is timely access to hearing services, good management of hearing loss and enabling people with hearing loss to engage in the wider community. The programme provides eligible clients with free hearing assessments, hearing rehabilitation and, where clinically appropriate, free hearing devices.

In addition, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants may access hearing services through the programme if referred for services by their National Disability Insurance Agency Planner. The Department provided services to 16 NDIS participants in 2013-14.

In February 2014, the Department launched the HSO portal, allowing people to make online applications for hearing services, reducing the waiting time and cutting the number of forms to be completed.

In 2013-14, the Department continued to fund Australian Hearing to deliver specialised client services through the Community Service Obligations (CSO). Eligible CSO clients include children and young adults up to the age of 26 years, adult clients with complex needs, clients living in rural and remote areas and eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In May 2014 the new programme website was released. The website lists the programme’s eligibility rules and location of providers, and enables lodgement of applications online.

Qualitative Deliverable
Programme clients can lodge voucher applications through an online portal
2013-14 Reference Point
Feedback on the usability of the online portal is collected to inform future releases
Result
Met
Since its launch in February 2014, the Department has regularly monitored the benefits of implementing the portal. Feedback received has assisted in the design and implementation of enhancements to the online portal and website.
Quantitative Deliverable
Number of people who receive voucher services nationally
2013-14 Target
689,000
2013-14 Actual
647,545
Result
Substantially Met
The number of people who receive voucher services nationally: 2010-11 599,581 people, 2011-12 616,639 people, 2012-13 636,389 people.In 2013-14, 647,545 people received voucher services, an increase on previous years.

The number of new clients applying for the Voucher Programme remained at similar levels to recent years.

On 1 January 2012, the voucher period was extended from two years to three years. As service providers transitioned their clients to the new voucher period, the number of return clients dropped in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Quantitative KPI
Proportion of voucher applications processed within 14 days of receipt
2013-14 Target
85%
2013-14 Actual
98%
Result
Met
The proportion of voucher applications processed within 14 days of receipt: 2011-12 98 per cent, 2012-13 99 per cent. In 2013-14, 98% of vouchers were processed within 14 days of receipt.
Prior to implementation of the HSO portal, an average of four weeks were taken to process a voucher. This has now decreased to less than one day.

The number of new clients receiving fittings for hearing devices fell slightly this financial year. For new clients who received a hearing assessment in 2013-14, 71.7 per cent received a fitting service compared with 77.7 per cent in 2012-13. There was a slight increase in the proportion of return clients receiving an assessment and then a fitting service in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13 (40.4 per cent versus 36.4 per cent, respectively).

Quantitative KPI
Proportion of claims for a hearing aid fitting that relate to voucher clients who have a hearing loss of greater than 23 decibels
2013-14 Target
95%
2013-14 Actual
94%
Result
Substantially met
The proportion of claims for a hearing aid fitting that relate to voucher clients who have a hearing loss of greater than 23 decibels: 2010-11 96 per cent, 2011-12 96 per cent, 2012-13 95 per cent.In 2013-14, 94% of clients met the Minimum Hearing Loss Threshold (MHLT) when fitted with a hearing aid. The threshold aims to ensure that services are targeted to those who need them most.
Qualitative Deliverable
Implementation of a risk based audit programme for service providers
2013-14 Reference Point
90% of service providers complete the self-assessment process to confirm compliance and/or identify areas for improvement
Result
Met
This self-assessment process was completed by the due date by 98% of providers.
Qualitative KPI
Policies and programme reforms are developed and implemented in consultation with consumers and service providers
2013-14 Reference Point
Opportunity for stakeholders to participate through a range of avenues including through consultative committees, meetings, focus groups and online
Result
Met

Support research into hearing loss prevention and management

In 2013-14 the Department worked to maximise the impact of funding provided for research. This funding is provided under the Hearing Loss Prevention Programme (HLPP) to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for research into hearing loss prevention, and to the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) for research relevant to the objectives of the programme.

The HLPP supports research projects that will reduce the incidence and/or impact of avoidable hearing loss in the Australian community, contribute to improved policies and service delivery, and better identify community needs in relation to hearing loss.

To date, 17 research projects have been funded under the HLPP. Projects cover issues including identifying and reducing the sources of noise exposure in children and young adults, hearing health education and awareness for young children, and measures to prevent and treat otitis media (middle ear infection) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Information on the projects and their outcomes is available on the Department’s website.42 The Department also continues to provide funding for research projects undertaken by NAL in the areas of assessment, hearing devices, clinical procedures and hearing loss prevention.

Qualitative Deliverable
Funding round for the allocation of research grants under the Hearing Loss Prevention Programme completed
2013-14 Reference Point
At least one funding round held in 2013-14
Result
Met
HLPP funding was available through three NHMRC funding schemes in 2013-14. Successful projects will be announced in late 2014 and are expected to commence in early 2015.

Outcome 7 – Financial Resource Summary

(A) Budget Estimate 1
2013-14
$’000
(B) Actual 2013-14
$’000
Variation (Column B minus Column A)
$’000
Programme 7.1: Hearing Services
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1)
420,841
398,971
( 21,870)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 2
11,361
11,300
( 61)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 3
540
511
( 29)
Total for Programme 7.1
432,742
410,782
( 21,960)
Outcome 7 Totals by appropriation type
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1)
420,841
398,971
( 21,870)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 2
11,361
11,300
( 61)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 3
540
511
( 29)
Total Expenses for Outcome 7
432,742
410,782
( 21,960)
Average Staffing Level (Number)
70
67
( 3)

1 Budgeted appropriations taken from the 2014-15 Health Portfolio Budget Statements and re-aligned to the 2013-14 programme group structure.

2 Departmental appropriation combines ‘Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Bill 1)’ and ‘Revenue from independent sources (s31)’.

3 ‘Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year’ is made up of depreciation expense, amortisation, make good expense and audit fees. This estimate also includes approved operating losses – please refer to the departmental financial statements for further information. Some reclassifications have been made to the Budget estimates to more accurately reflect the allocation of departmental depreciation by outcome.

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