Global Collaborations

Global Collaborations

Monday, December 05, 2011

Relationships with international data linkage organisations and collaborators have been in the Population Health Research Network spotlight recently with a series of overseas meetings aimed at strengthening the Network's profile and standing in the global arena.

PHRN Management Council (MC) Chair Professor Brendon Kearney recently travelled to London to represent the PHRN at the Wennberg International Collaborative, whilst PHRN Program Office, Manager of Client and Policy Services Dr Felicity Flack has also returned from a five week meeting tour as part of her Churchill Fellowship.

The following reports provide summaries of the two experiences.

BK The Wennberg International Collaborative

by Professor Brendon Kearney, Chair, PHRN MC



Professor Jack Wennberg is internationally famous for developing variation analysis in health care services using the de-identified link database. His major studies have included the veterans administration system in the USA, one of the world's largest organised health care systems and also Medicare USA.

The Wennberg technique has identified substantial variations in the provision of health care services across geographical boundaries. The analysis goes into some depth and develops clinical signatures for health care services particularly hospitals and their associated attending clinicians to explain many of the variations that occur. This technique has developed substantial interest worldwide. PHRN has been asked to participate in the collaborative and this is the second year in which it was held and as Chair of the PHRN MC I was fortunate enough to attend. I was also able to present the work of the PHRN and this generated substantial interest and support from all present which included senior representatives of health systems including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada other European and Middle Eastern countries as well as policy makers and senior researchers.

I was also able to present three years of findings of variation analysis using the Wennberg technique for hospital utilisation in South Australia which was prepared to inform and give an overview of trends and variations in health care services in South Australia for the Generational Health review. It is interesting to note that the NSW Ministry of Health has commissioned a similar review of health services.



The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

by Dr Felicity Flack - PHRN Program Office, Manager of Client & Policy Services



The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust provides annual fellowships for Australians to travel overseas to experience new opportunities, to make contacts with the best in their fields, and to bring the experience back to benefit Australia. I was extremely privileged to be awarded a 2011 Churchill Fellowship which was an amazing opportunity to learn more about the world of data linkage.

The aim of the Fellowship was to:

  • Increase my understanding of different types of linkage systems;
  • Increase my understanding of different governance processes used by these linkage systems;
  • Understand how the choice of linkage system and/or governance processes can maximise public good and minimise risks to individual privacy.

I travelled to Scotland where I attended the Scottish Health Informatics Programme conference at St Andrews as well as visiting the National Records of Scotland and the Information Services Division Scotland which is part of NHS National Services Scotland. I then headed south to the University of Swansea, the home of the Secure Anonymised Linkage (SAIL) system.

Canada was the second leg of my trip and I visited the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy in Winnipeg and PopData BC in Vancouver.

All the people that I visited were extremely generous with their time and expertise and were also very interested in the work of the PHRN.

My final Fellowship report will be available on the PHRN website when it is completed.




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Our network remains open. The network is interoperable and can source expertise, technology and data from around the country. Our expert staff are highly qualified and experienced in linkage of patient data, including population-based administrative data (such as hospital admissions, notifiable diseases and death data) as well as linkage of research cohort data. In addition, we provide secure file transfer and secure remote access services. We are able to work with other NCRIS capabilities to deliver coordinated access to national research infrastructure.

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