Appropriateness indicators measure how well services meet client needs. An appropriateness indicator for the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program, for example, is the proportion of clients receiving the services that they are assessed as needing. Appropriateness indicators also seek to identify the extent of any underservicing or overservicing (Renwick and Sadkowsky 1991).
Some services have developed measurable standards of service need against which the current levels of service can be assessed. The 'overcrowding' measure in housing, for example, measures the appropriateness of the size of the dwelling relative to the size of the household.
Other services have few measurable standards of service need; for example, the appropriate number of medical treatments available for particular populations is not known. However, data on differences in service levels can indicate where further work could identify possible underservicing or overservicing.
Quality indicators reflect the extent to which a service is suited to its purpose and conforms to specifications. Information about quality is particularly important when there is a strong emphasis on increasing efficiency (as indicated by lower unit costs). There is usually more than one way in which to deliver a service, and each alternative has different implications for both cost and quality. Information about quality is needed to ensure all relevant aspects of performance are considered.
The Steering Committee's approach is to identify and report on aspects of quality, particularly actual or implied competence. Actual competence can be measured by the frequency of positive (or negative) events resulting from the actions of the service (for example, deaths resulting from health system errors such as an incorrect dose of drugs). Implied competence can be measured by proxy indicators, such as the extent to which aspects of a service (such as inputs, processes and outputs) conform to specifications, for example, the level of accreditation of public hospitals and aged care facilities.