Skip to main content
Posted on 07 May 2019

In the latest VAHI seminar, held on 2 May, we heard about the potential of linked population health datasets to support population, health services and clinical research.

Professor David Henry, Bond University and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Canada, and Ximena Camacho, The Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, spoke about experiences of linked data in Canada and how they relate to Australia. This was a great opportunity to hear from two internationally renowned experts in data liberalisation.

Professor Henry explained how the use of linked datasets is routine in many countries and governments have come to rely on the insights they provide. He said that Australia is lagging behind in this area, representing an opportunity for Victoria to lead the way.

Professor Henry explained that routinely collected data is generally very robust and when datasets are linked in multiple ways, they are incredibly versatile. He talked about how linked data has been used in Canada for many years and gave examples of some of the insights gained from it.

This included development of an algorithm based on linking administrative data (such as hospitalisations, insurance claims and prescriptions), which could predict rates of type 2 diabetes and make comparisons by location or ethnicity, for example.

In another example, data linkage made it possible to look at rates of opioid prescription by geographic area and deaths linked to opioid use, showing the relationship between them.

Ximena Camacho discussed ways that linked data can be used to assess the quality and safety of institutions and to assess primary care performance. She spoke about the importance of clinical quality registries and noted the value of linking registry data to administrative population datasets to be able to use them confidently.

Ms Camacho talked about the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Canada and some of the characteristics that have enabled its success. These include its independence, having a central site with satellite sites in other areas and having academic and data experts who are assigned to specific projects. She considered the key to ICES’s success to be the extensive data repository of coded and linkable data that they hold.

The event ended with a question and answer session that became a lively discussion of the Australian situation and how we can progress access to Commonwealth data, especially PBS data.

VAHI will soon be releasing a report from the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) National Data Linkage Demonstration Project (NDLDP), which focused on delivering better cardiac outcomes. This report shows the great potential that linked data has when it is available.

Professor Henry said that states simply must find a way to get routine access to federal data and supports VAHI’s role in strongly pushing for it. He explained that in Canada, there was greater awareness of the value of linked data across government, hospital CEOs, clinicians and others, which helped the process.

New Seminar series

Download the presentation

Upcoming seminars

VAHI established the Seminar Series to bring together local and international experts with an audience of health services executives and clinicians, government staff and other interested parties to share valuable information, and promote collaboration, innovation and best practice.

The next seminar will take place on Thursday 6 June 2019. Professor David Dunt from the University of Melbourne will present on clinicians’ perceptions of public reporting of hospital performance data.

If you are interested in joining VAHI’s seminar series mailing list, please email


Page last updated: 07 May 2019