There is a recognised need for reported national data that inform health policy, health professions, and consumers about the wellbeing of Australians with cancer and other chronic conditions. International initiatives have demonstrated the viability and benefits of utilising population-based cancer registries to monitor the prevalence and trajectory of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes among people with cancer. Establishing a similar level of monitoring in Australia would require timely access to health data collected by publicly funded, population-based cancer registries, and the capacity to link this information across jurisdictions. Combining information from different sources via data linkage is an efficient and cost-effective way to maximise how data are used to inform population health and policy development. However, linking health datasets has historically been highly restricted, resource-intensive, and costly in Australia due to complex and outdated legislative requirements, duplicative approval processes, and differing policy frameworks in each state and territory. This has resulted in significant research waste due to underutilisation of existing data, duplication of research efforts and resources, and data not being translated into decision-making. Recognising these challenges, from 2015 to 2017 the Productivity Commission investigated options for improving data availability and use in Australia, considering factors such as privacy, security, and intellectual property. The inquiry report recommended significant reforms for Australian legislation, including the creation of a data sharing and release structure to improve access to data for research and policy development purposes. This paper discusses (1) opportunities in HRQOL research enabled by data linkage, (2) barriers to data access and use in Australia and the implications for waste in HRQOL research, and (3) proposed legislative reforms for improving data availability and use in Australia.
- Population health
- Quality of life