This OECD Health Policy Brief summarises the key findings of the OECD study Strengthening Health Information Infrastructure for Healthcare Quality Governance: Good Practices, New Opportunities and Data Privacy Protection Challenges. Download the OECD Health Policy Brief.
Health data constitutes a significant resource in most OECD countries that could be used to improve population health, the quality of healthcare and the performance of health systems. The 2010 Health Ministerial Meeting called for OECD support to strengthen national health information infrastructure to provide the evidence needed to improve healthcare quality and the performance of health systems.
In 2011/12, twenty-five countries participated in an OECD study to understand the extent to which countries develop and analyse personal health data and the reasons why data use may be problematic in some. Sources of personal health data include registries, administrative databases, population surveys, patient surveys and clinical records.
Findings indicate that national data infrastructure is improving across countries:
- Many countries are linking and analysing personal health data to report on the quality and cost-effectiveness of treatments; to address underuse, overuse and misuse of therapies; to reduce variation in care practices; to assess and revise clinical care guidelines; and to manage health expenditures.
- Some countries expect that within the next five years data from electronic health record systems will also be used for healthcare quality monitoring.
There are considerable and troubling differences across OECD countries, however, in the extent to which existing health data may be used for public benefit. These differences are related to risk management in the balancing of individual rights to privacy and collective rights to safe and effective healthcare and to a high-performing health system.
Laws and policies enabling privacy-respectful data use are needed to strengthen national information infrastructure. To develop international studies comparing healthcare quality and health system performance, actions are needed to reduce unnecessary differences in data protection practices. When reforms are proposed, however, their impact on health and healthcare statistics and research must be given consideration. In so doing, there can be a conscious balancing of both privacy rights and rights to health and to safe and effective healthcare.
A role for the OECD in the coming years is to continue to support countries in reaching the goal of strengthening health information infrastructure so that privacy-respectful uses of data for health, healthcare quality and health system performance monitoring and research become widespread, regular activities. This requires monitoring national progress and assisting countries in overcoming obstacles to privacy-respectful data use.
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