PHRN Review

PHRN Review 2013

Review Panel

The Review was conducted by a panel comprising:


  • Prof Warwick Anderson, CEO National Health and Medical Research Council


  • Prof James Best, Head, Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Diane Watson, Chief Executive Officer, National Health Performance Authority

The declaration of interest statements for the Review Panel can be found here.
An independent Project Officer was appointed to receive written submissions and other correspondence to the Panel.


An independent review of the PHRN, commissioned by the PHRN Management Council, was completed in 2014. The Review Panel was chaired by Prof Warwick Anderson, CEO of the NHMRC.  Professor Anderson was supported by Professor James Best, Head, Melbourne Medical School at the University of Melbourne and Dr Diane Watson, Chief Executive of the National Health Performance Authority.

The Panel reviewed a number of PHRN key documents, conducted a web-based survey of stakeholders, sought written submissions and held two full-day hearings in Sydney and Melbourne.

The Panel assessed the progress made by the PHRN in establishing Australia’s national data linkage infrastructure including key achievements, challenges and future opportunities.  They found that the PHRN had made significant progress with development of Australia’s data linkage infrastructure since its inception in 2009 and that access to linked data has greatly improved over this period.  Key findings and recommendations from the Review Panel are shown below.

Findings and recommendations

Key findings and recommendations from the Review Panel are show below:

Establishment of an independent PHRN Board

The Review Panel found that the composition of the Management Council was appropriate to oversee the early establishment of the PHRN. However it was ill-suited to oversee the future consolidation and strategic development of the Network due to the lack of independence of members.  

The Review Panel recommended that decisions should be “made by individuals in independent, impartial governance positions” and that this could be achieved by moving to an independent board governance arrangement.  They recommended that the Commonwealth Department (Education), independent Chair and The University of Western Australia should explore this issue urgently.

Development and implementation of a strategy for sustainable funding

The Review Panel found that the Network participants were understandably focused on meeting their existing funding requirements but that there was “an urgent need for a Network-wide strategy to identify and pursue future sources of sustainable funding from public and/or private sources.” It recommended that the identification and pursuit of sustainable funding for the Network would be an important agenda for the new Board.

Enhanced collaboration with the health system

The Review Panel found that although there were some impressive examples of engagement, overall collaborations across health system stakeholders were underdeveloped. They recommended that there is a need for “a Network-wide or jurisdiction specific strategy to support establishment or enhancement of positive productive collaborations with government officials, health system managers, clinicians and/or consumers.”

Further work to address bottlenecks in access to data and facilitate research

The Review Panel recognised that “many participants in the Network have made impressive improvements in nation-wide, inter-jurisdictional or jurisdiction technical capacity and staffing capability.” They also found that a lack of timely access to data was a pervasive issue and that streamlined processes for access to and delivery of data from custodians are widely acknowledged as areas of critical need. It recommended that “clearing the gridlock in the authorizing environments with relevant governments to improve user experience” should be a priority.

Consolidation of existing collaborations to maximise return on investment

The Review Panel found that some Network participants were either at an early stage of development or as yet insufficiently developed. This brought into question their sustainability when existing funding is expended. Therefore the Review Panel recommended that consolidation of existing collaborations should be considered.

Response to recommendations from the PHRN Review

The PHRN Management Council has reviewed the findings and recommendations from the Review and agreed that an independent board should be established.  The Board will develop a strategic plan for the PHRN as a priority. The plan will take into consideration all the key recommendations of the Review Panel.  The Board will be in place by October 2014.

Copies of the Final Report of the PHRN 2013 Independent Panel Review can be found here.

Written submissions to the Review Panel can be found here.