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Cross border hospital use: analysis using data linkage across four Australian states

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The benefits of using linked administrative data in health-related research were recognised by the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Roadmap in 2006.1 This roadmap outlined a multimillion dollar investment strategy in national capability for data linkage, which led to the establishment of the Population Health Research Network (PHRN) to coordinate and champion this initiative.2 The purpose of the PHRN was to establish data-linkage units in all Australian states, support the implementation of secure data delivery and the provision of remote-access laboratories for researchers, and to develop the Centre for Data Linkage (CDL) for national and cross-jurisdictional linkage.

The CDL was established within the Centre for Population Health Research at Curtin University in Western Australia. It provides the data linkage infrastructure necessary for cross-jurisdictional linkage of health-related data in Australia, and uses a best-practice data “separation principle”. Under this principle, the process of data linkage is kept separate from the analysis of linked service data. Currently, projects requesting data linkage to Australian Government datasets, such as Medicare or Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, must go through a risk-assessment process. If the risk to data security is found to be high, data linkage must be conducted…