The Statistical Services Branch (SSB) commenced linking health data in 2001 to enable monitoring and evaluation of health services. This included linkage of hospital data across facilities to inform patient safety indicators related to readmissions, and linkage between health, ambulance and death registration data collections to inform trauma and cardiac service planning.
The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) was established and commenced operations in 2009. The PHRN is funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program and its role is to coordinate the development of infrastructure to support linkage of health data in Australia. The PHRN has provided NCRIS funds to Queensland Health as ‘Data Linkage Queensland’ (DLQ) since late 2011, which has been used in conjunction with Queensland Government funds to develop a data linkage service to support government and research requirements related to health service policy, planning, management, monitoring and evaluation.
DLQ has created and maintains a Master Linkage File (MLF) consisting of key health-related data collections. These include admitted patient, perinatal (mother and baby), birth and death registration, emergency department, non-admitted patient, elective surgery and outpatient waiting list, Cardiac Information Solution Program, Surgery Connect, Queensland Ambulance Service, air retrieval, community mental health and notifiable conditions data.
DLQ also conducts ad hoc linkage for data requests from researchers and from within the department. The number of requests for linked data has dramatically increased over time, with many being managed through the automation of recurrent requests and direct supply of linkage keys to some high use areas within the department. Nevertheless, DLQ has been processing over one hundred requests for linked data annually since 2013/14 and demand for linked data shows no sign of abating.
Currently, linked data are widely used in Queensland Health and by researchers to support evidence-based policy, planning and decision-making for monitoring the safety and assessing the value of services, and for research and innovation in the delivery of health services for Queenslanders. Moving forward, priority projects for DLQ include the development of a community of practice website to enable improved sharing of information about Queensland data sources and resources to support analysis of linked data, expanding the scope of data and data collections included in the Queensland MLF to enable faster access to linked data, and working with key partners within Queensland and nationally to develop processes for making more efficient use of existing linkage systems to better support government and community access to linked data.