Construction of a linked health and social care database resource--lessons on process, content and culture

Miles D Witham, Helen Frost, Marion McMurdo, Peter T Donnan, Mark McGilchrist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Combining routinely collected health and social care data on older people is essential to advance both service delivery and research for this client group. Little data is available on how to combine health and social care data; this article provides an overview of a successful data linkage process and discusses potential barriers to executing such projects.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We successfully obtained and linked data on older people within Dundee from three sources: Dundee Social Work Department database (30,000 individuals aged 65 years and over), healthcare data held on NHS Tayside patients by the Health Informatics Centre (400,000 individuals), Dundee, and the Dundee of Medicine for the Elderly rehabilitation database (4300 individuals). Data were linked, anonymized and transferred to a Safe Haven environment to ensuring confidentiality and strict access control. Challenges were faced around workflows, culture and documentation. Exploiting the resultant data set raises further challenges centered on database documentation, understanding the way data were collected, dealing with missing data, data validity and collection at different time periods.

CONCLUSION: Routinely collected health and social care data sets can be linked, but significant process barriers must be overcome to allow successful linkage and integration of data and its full exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalInformatics for Health and Social Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Computer Security
  • Confidentiality
  • Databases, Factual
  • Delivery of Health Care/organization & administration
  • Electronic Health Records/organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Information Management/organization & administration
  • Medical Record Linkage/methods
  • National Health Programs
  • Organizational Culture
  • Scotland
  • Social Work/organization & administration
  • Systems Integration


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