About health data in Australia

From doctor’s visits to research studies, good collection and use of health data leads to better health care – as individuals and a community. Learn about how we collect, use and regulate health data to maximise the benefits and maintain privacy and security.

What health data is

When you see a healthcare provider, they collect information about you. This is an example of health data. If you take part in a health survey, this also creates health data.  

An individual, group or whole population can have health data collected or analysed. The bigger the group, the bigger picture we get of health in Australia. 

Health data is any information about health. This includes: 

  • health conditions 
  • lifestyle factors 
  • demographics (for example, age, gender, suburb) 
  • diseases 
  • medications 
  • treatments 
  • behaviours 
  • diagnoses 
  • causes of death 
  • quality of life 
  • patient health records 
  • studies of the health of groups of people 
  • test results (such as blood tests, X-rays or scans) 
  • results from research studies.  

Why health data is important

Having data available about your health can ensure appropriate care, improve your treatment and save your life. This happens when health professionals share data. 

However, when we take a step back and look at health data for a group or population, it helps us in even bigger ways. It helps us understand health needs, create useful policies and make better plans. 

Data supports health and medical research and discovery. This can have life-changing results. 

Where health data comes from

Health data is gathered in many situations and at many times. Some examples are doctors recording a diagnosis, hospital admission forms and the number of prescriptions written. 

A nurse practitioner can collect it as a routine part of your health care. Or a researcher can collect it for a particular study. 

In Australia, the collection of personal information and data is regulated by law. To learn more, see the national Privacy Act 1988

We collect specific data and hold some data collections

We also use other government data sources and collections

Australian Government data collection and policy

The Australian Government collects lots of data. It does this in line with its public data policy, the Australian data strategy and the Australian Data and Availability and Transparency Act 2022. The aim is to maximise the benefits of using public data while maintaining privacy and security for individuals. Learn more by reading the public data policy statement

The National Data Commissioner is the regulator of the Data Availability and Transparency (DATA) Scheme. Learn more by viewing the Office of the National Data Commissioner website.  

Data.gov.au is the central source of Australian open government data. Anyone can access the anonymised public data published by federal, state and territory, and local government agencies.  

Person Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA)

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) holds data that it collects and combines from various fields. This includes: 

  • health 
  • education 
  • government payments 
  • income and taxation 
  • employment 
  • population information (including the Census).  

This is called PLIDA. The purpose of PLIDA is to hold a broad range of data to help researchers analyse complex questions. It helps provide new insights that aren’t available from a single data source. 

We are on the board of PLIDA and are involved in aspects of its operations. Learn more about other health research and data we use.  

National Integrated Health Services Information (NIHSI)

The NIHSI is an initiative between us, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and state and territory health authorities. It brings together state, territory and national administrative datasets to better understand how people use health services, so we can improve them. Learn more about NIHSI in our data collections

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