Beyond the black stump: rapid reviews of health research issues affecting regional, rural and remote Australia

Chapter 5: Availability and characteristics of publicly available health workforce data sources in Australia

Marianne H Gillam; Matthew J Leach; David A Gonzalez-Chica; Kuda Muyambi; Martin Jones; Sandra Walsh; Tesfahun Eshetie; Kham Tran; Esther May

Objective: Many data sources are used in Australia to inform health workforce planning, but their characteristics in terms of relevance, accessibility and accuracy are uncertain. We aimed to identify and appraise publicly available data sources used to describe the Australian health workforce.

Study design: We conducted a scoping review in which we searched bibliographic databases, websites and grey literature. Two reviewers independently undertook title and abstract screening and full text screening using Covidence software. We then assessed the relevance, accessibility and accuracy of data sources using a customised appraisal tool.

Data sources: We searched for potential workforce data sources in nine databases (MEDLINE, Embase, Ovid Emcare, Scopus, Web of Science, Informit, the JBI Evidence‐based Practice Database, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library) and the grey literature, and examined several pre‐defined websites.

Data synthesis: During the screening process we identified 6955 abstracts and examined 48 websites, from which we identified 12 publicly available data sources — eight primary and four secondary data sources. The primary data sources were generally of modest quality, with low scores in terms of reference period, accessibility and missing data. No single primary data source scored well across all domains of the appraisal tool.

Conclusion: We identified several limitations of data sources used to describe the Australian health workforce. Establishment of a high quality, longitudinal, linked database that can inform all aspects of health workforce development is urgently needed, particularly for rural health workforce and services planning.