'More than just numbers on a page?': A qualitative exploration of the use of data collection and feedback in youth mental health services

Craig Hamilton* (Corresponding Author), Kate Filia, Sian Lloyd, Sophie Prober, Eilidh Duncan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to explore current data collection and feedback practice, in the form of monitoring and evaluation, among youth mental health (YMH) services and healthcare commissioners; and to identify barriers and enablers to this practice.

DESIGN: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted via Zoom videoconferencing software. Data collection and analysis were informed by the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Data were deductively coded to the 14 domains of the TDF and inductively coded to generate belief statements.

SETTING: Healthcare commissioning organisations and YMH services in Australia.

PARTICIPANTS: Twenty staff from healthcare commissioning organisations and twenty staff from YMH services.

RESULTS: The umbrella behaviour 'monitoring and evaluation' (ME) can be sub-divided into 10 specific sub-behaviours (e.g. planning and preparing, providing technical assistance, reviewing and interpreting data) performed by healthcare commissioners and YMH services. One hundred belief statements relating to individual, social, or environmental barriers and enablers were generated. Both participant groups articulated a desire to improve the use of ME for quality improvement and had particular interest in understanding the experiences of young people and families. Identified enablers included services and commissioners working in partnership, data literacy (including the ability to set appropriate performance indicators), relational skills, and provision of meaningful feedback. Barriers included data that did not adequately depict service performance, problems with data processes and tools, and the significant burden that data collection places on YMH services with the limited resources they have to do it.

CONCLUSIONS: Importantly, this study illustrated that the use of ME could be improved. YMH services, healthcare commissioners should collaborate on ME plans and meaningfully involve young people and families where possible. Targets, performance indicators, and outcome measures should explicitly link to YMH service quality improvement; and ME plans should include qualitative data. Streamlined data collection processes will reduce unnecessary burden, and YMH services should have the capability to interrogate their own data and generate reports. Healthcare commissioners should also ensure that they provide meaningful feedback to their commissioned services, and local and national organisations collecting youth mental health data should facilitate the sharing of this data. The results of the study should be used to design theory-informed strategies to improve ME use.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0271023
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number7
Early online date20 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2022


  • Adolescent
  • Data Collection
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services
  • Qualitative Research


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