Record Linkage in Healthcare: Applications, Opportunities, and Challenges for Public Health

Record Linkage in Healthcare: Applications, Opportunities, and Challenges for Public Health

Gulzar H. Shah (National Association of County and City Health Officials, USA), Kaveepan Lertwachara (California Polytechnic State University, USA) and Anteneh Ayanso (Brock University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/jhdri.2010070104

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed the development of new record linkage technologies that are increasingly being used for data integration in various application settings. The authors’ objective in this article is to provide a review of recent developments in medical record linkage and their implications in healthcare research and public health policies. In particular, the authors assess the key advantages and possible limitations of record linkage techniques and technologies in various health care scenarios where different pieces of patient records are collected and managed by different agencies. First, the authors provide a brief overview of deterministic, probabilistic, and unsupervised record linkage techniques and their advantages and limitations. Then, the authors describe current probablistic record linkage software and their functionalities, and present specific cases where probabilistic linkage has been successfully used to enhance decision-making in healthcare delivery as well as in healthcare-related public policy making. Finally, the authors outline some of the critical issues and challenges of integrating medical records across distributed databases, including technical considerations as well as concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality.
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Past Research In Record Linkage

Record linkage can be applicable both within and across data sources. Typically, record linkage is defined as a computer-based process of matching two or more records from different and often heterogeneous sources of data that refer to the same entities such as persons, events, or other objects of interest. However record linkage is sometimes performed within a single data set when multiple records are present in a single database for a person or other entity (e.g., records for multiple hospitalizations in a hospital discharge data set for a 12-month period). Record linkage within a single data set is also performed to remove duplicate records, referred to as “deduplication” (Winkler, 1999).

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