Published Papers - Abstract 90

Young AF, Dobson AJ & Byles JE. Health services research using linked records: Who consents and what is the gain? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2001; 25(5): 417-420

Objective: To assess consent to record linkage, describe the characteristics of consenters and compare self-report versus Medicare records of general practitioner use.Method: Almost 40,000 women in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health were asked for permission to link their Medicare records and survey data. Results: 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. Conclusions: Record linkage of survey and Medicare data on a large scale is feasible. The linked data provide information on health and socioeconomic status which are valuable for understanding health service utilisation.Implications: Linked records provide a powerful tool for health care research, particularly in longitudinal studies.