Evaluation of record linkage between a large healthcare provider and the Utah Population Database

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012 Jun;19(e1):e54-9. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000335. Epub 2011 Sep 16.


Objective: Electronically linked datasets have become an important part of clinical research. Information from multiple sources can be used to identify comorbid conditions and patient outcomes, measure use of healthcare services, and enrich demographic and clinical variables of interest. Innovative approaches for creating research infrastructure beyond a traditional data system are necessary.

Materials and methods: Records from a large healthcare system's enterprise data warehouse (EDW) were linked to a statewide population database, and a master subject index was created. The authors evaluate the linkage, along with the impact of missing information in EDW records and the coverage of the population database. The makeup of the EDW and population database provides a subset of cancer records that exist in both resources, which allows a cancer-specific evaluation of the linkage.

Results: About 3.4 million records (60.8%) in the EDW were linked to the population database with a minimum accuracy of 96.3%. It was estimated that approximately 24.8% of target records were absent from the population database, which enabled the effect of the amount and type of information missing from a record on the linkage to be estimated. However, 99% of the records from the oncology data mart linked; they had fewer missing fields and this correlated positively with the number of patient visits.

Discussion and conclusion: A general-purpose research infrastructure was created which allows disease-specific cohorts to be identified. The usefulness of creating an index between institutions is that it allows each institution to maintain control and confidentiality of their own information.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Record Linkage*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Universities
  • Utah