The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) is an internationally significant health data infrastructure funded under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS to manage health and health-related information across Australia securely and safely).
Since 2009, NCRIS funding of $43,269,000 has helped the lead agent, the University of Western Australia, and its partner organisations, to build a transformative data resource for the health and medical sectors.
Australian governments collect vast amounts of information about Australians. This information is a valuable national resource which can be used to improve the understanding of disease, develop treatments and enhance services. The capacity to link information between Australian Government, state and territory agencies in a way that protects privacy and enables access to the information by researchers with the necessary high level analytical skills is necessary if Australia is to realise the maximum benefit from analysis of this population data there must be.
With the support of every state and territory, PHRN is overcoming problems associated with working across jurisdictional boundaries to build a network that brings together existing health data from around the nation. This linked data is being made available for critical health-related research.
PHRN engages with research institutes, pharmaceutical and other companies to offer more efficient access to a rich, diverse array of datasets. The datasets will improve health and wellbeing policies through evidence-based care, resulting in increased national productivity and a better streamlined health system.
For example, PHRN has recently completed a study titled 'In-Hospital and Post-Discharge Mortality: A Study of Australian Hospital Quality of Care using Cross-Jurisdictional Data Linkages'. This study linked the hospital admission data and death data from four states (NSW, QLD, SA and WA) to understand cross-border hospital use and deaths related to hospital admissions. The research dataset included around 40 million records. The study found that three per cent of patients travelled across a state border to attend hospital and that 32 per cent of deaths—almost one third—associated with a hospital admission occurred within 30 days of the hospital admission. Almost five hundred of these deaths occurred in a different state to the person’s hospital stay and were only associated with the hospital stay because of the availability of the linked data.
This and other research enabled by PHRN infrastructure empowers the health sector and policy makers to respond more effectively to the changing needs of Australians, strengthening evidence-based care to maintain a healthy national workforce and boost Australia’s competitiveness and productivity.