Data update

Researchers relying on information in a sample of data extracted from Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits and Medicare Benefits schemes that was withdrawn recently from the data.gov.au website are advised that work is continuing to restore the dataset as soon as possible.

Page last updated: 29 September 2016

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29 September 2016

Researchers relying on information in a sample of data extracted from Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits and Medicare Benefits schemes that was withdrawn recently from the data.gov.au website are advised that work is continuing to restore the dataset as soon as possible.

The Australian Government Department of Health makes the high-value datasets it holds publicly available to enable researchers, the not-for-profit sector and health industries to extract the most value from government data. This is helping to improve health outcomes for all Australians and is popular in the university, research and health-related communities.

The Department of Health removed this particular dataset from data.gov.au recently following an alert made in the public interest by Dr Vanessa Teague from the Department of Computing and Information at Melbourne University that she and her colleagues(1), analysing the 10 per cent linked dataset, found it was possible to decrypt some service provider ID numbers.

The dataset does not include names or addresses of service providers and no patient information was identified. However, as a result of the potential to extract some doctor and other service provider ID numbers, the Department of Health immediately removed the dataset from the website to ensure the security and integrity of the data is maintained.

No patient information has been compromised, and no information about the health service providers has been publicly identified or released.

The Office of the Australian Information Commission has been made aware of the issues and is currently investigating the matter and providing independent oversight.

The Department of Health is undertaking a full, independent audit of the process of compiling, reviewing and publishing this data and this dataset will only be restored when concerns about its potential vulnerabilities are resolved.

It is intended that this data will be improved and updated from time to time. Researchers who are relying on this information are encouraged to contact the Department of Health at pbs.mbs.stats@health.gov.au to discuss the next steps to access these statistics.

Media Contact: Kay McNiece, 0412 132 585

(1) The research team includes, Dr Christopher Culnane, Dr Benjamin Rubinstein and Dr Vanessa Teague of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Computing and Information Systems

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