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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2001 Oct;25(5):417-20.

Health services research using linked records: who consents and what is the gain?

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Research Centre for Gender and Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales.



To assess consent to record linkage, describe the characteristics of consenters and compare self-report versus Medicare records of general practitioner use.


Almost 40,000 women in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health were sent a request by mail for permission to link their Medicare records and survey data.


19,700 women consented: 37% of young (18-23 years), 59% of mid-age (45-50 years) and 53% of older women (70-75 years). Consenters tended to have higher levels of education and, among the older cohort, were in better health than non-consenters. Women tended to under-report the number of visits to general practitioners.


Record linkage of survey and Medicare data on a large scale is feasible. The linked data provide information on health and socio-economic status which are valuable for understanding health service utilisation.


Linked records provide a powerful tool for health care research, particularly in longitudinal studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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