Evaluation of the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program and the Visiting Optometrists Scheme

1.1 Objectives of the evaluation

Page last updated: 28 February 2012

MSOAP and VOS are two important programs that have been implemented to overcome some specific barriers faced by people living in rural and remote Australia. The programs are specifically targeted at facilitating access by people living in these communities to medical specialist and optometry services. They are administrated separately, but have overlapping reach. They have been implemented in a context where many other initiatives and programs have been established to address similar or related objectives.

The evaluation is intended to address several key aspects of operation of these programs. The main objectives are to:

    • Identify opportunities for improving coordination of services between the two programs.
    • Look for opportunities to streamline administration of both programs.
    • Examine the potential impact of the Health Reform Agenda on both programs.
    • Determine whether the model of service delivery under each program is effectively, efficiently and equitably meeting the needs of clients and other stakeholders.
Key questions that were to be addressed through the evaluation were:
  1. Is MSOAP (including its expansions) effective in providing medical specialist and allied health outreach services is Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) Remoteness Areas (RAs) 2-5? Issues to be examined include:
      • challenges to growth in service delivery
      • costs and benefits (including social benefits to communities) of the program in a sample of communities across the ASGC-RAs
      • the role of advisory fora
      • planning processes for identifying needs and ensuring services are put in place.
      • appropriateness of information available to fundholders and advisory fora to make informed decisions?
      • recruitment and retention of medical practitioners and other service providers
      • alternatives means of delivering outreach services
      • alternatives to address the barriers to outreach delivery and the budget impact of these alternatives
      • the potential role of team based services within the program
      • appropriateness and efficiency of data collection and management for the program.
      • efficiency of MSOAP project administration.
  2. Is VOS effective in providing outreach optometric services in ASGC-RA2-5? Issues to be examined include:
      • challenges to growth in service delivery
      • linkages with state/territory based spectacle subsidy schemes
      • continuity of care for patients between VOS and other programs
      • patient referral processes
      • planning processes for identifying needs and ensuring services are put in place.
      • recruitment and retention of optometrists.
      • alternatives means of delivering outreach services
      • alternatives to address the barriers to outreach delivery of optometry services and the budget impact of these alternatives.
      • appropriateness and efficiency of data collection and management for the program.
      • efficiency of VOS project administration
The evaluation commenced in late April 2011 was completed on 26 September 2011. The evaluation of the programs was undertaken through analysis of qualitative and quantitative information. Chapter 2 provides more information on methods and how each of the evaluation questions were addressed.