Construction of a linked health and social care database resource: lessons on process, content and culture

Miles D. Witham (Lead / Corresponding author), Helen Frost, Marion McMurdo, Peter T. Donnan, Mark McGilchrist

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Combining routinely collected health and social care data on older people is essential to advance both service delivery and research for this client group. Little data is available on how to combine health and social care data; this article provides an overview of a successful data linkage process and discusses potential barriers to executing such projects.
    Methods and results: We successfully obtained and linked data on older people within Dundee from three sources: Dundee Social Work Department database (30 000 individuals aged 65 years and over), healthcare data held on NHS Tayside patients by the Health Informatics Centre (400 000 individuals), Dundee, and the Dundee of Medicine for the Elderly rehabilitation database (4300 individuals). Data were linked, anonymized and transferred to a Safe Haven environment to ensuring confidentiality and strict access control. Challenges were faced around workflows, culture and documentation. Exploiting the resultant data set raises further challenges centered on database documentation, understanding the way data were collected, dealing with missing data, data validity and collection at different time periods.
    Conclusion: Routinely collected health and social care data sets can be linked, but significant process barriers must be overcome to allow successful linkage and integration of data and its full exploitation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)229-239
    Number of pages11
    JournalInformatics for Health and Social Care
    Issue number3
    Early online date20 Mar 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


    • Database
    • Medical record linkage
    • Older
    • Social work

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Nursing (miscellaneous)
    • Health Informatics
    • Health Information Management


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