GPs and Practice Managers

This page contains information for GPs and Practice Managers, including links to downloadable 'plain language' statements and other useful Data for Decisions documents.

Individual patient medical records are important documents for patient care. When de-identified, and combined with thousands of other medical records, they create a powerful tool that has potential to improve health care and services through quality and safety measurement, research and accreditation.

What is Data for Decisions?

Data for Decisions is a University of Melbourne research initiative that collects de-identified electronic medical records from general medical practices for research. General medical practices across Victoria are invited to contribute de-identified data.

What is the data used for?

The de-identified data is used to generate knowledge and inform evidence-based practice around topics related to medication safety, disease patterns and outcomes, prescribing patterns, health economics and public health. Researchers from different types of organizations can apply to use certain parts of the data as relevant to their research. A condition of access to the data is that researchers make community reports available to the public on this website, regardless of the outcomes of their study.

What are the benefits of taking part?

The ‘secondary’ use of de-identified patient data decreases the cost and burden of collecting new data for research. De-identified data that is incorporated into the Patron database contributes to a research program that aims to understand general practice activity, improve clinical practice and patient outcomes into the future.

Participating GPs interested in research may have opportunity to participate in Communities of Practice that can contribute to the shape of research related to the Patron dataset – these communities come under the VicReN, (Victorian primary-care practice-based Research Network) umbrella. GPs interested in research can freely join VicReN which is managed from within the Department of General Practice, the University of Melbourne.

How is the data kept confidential and protected?

Details of all participating practices and GPs remain confidential, and all patient and practitioner data is de-identified before it leaves the GP practice. Go to the ‘Security and Privacy’ page to learn more about the confidentiality measures built into the data extraction software.

Before researcher(s) are provided access to any de-identified Patron data their project must first be approved by the independent Data for Decisions / Patron Data Governance Committee and gain ethics committee approval from an NHMRC approved human research ethics committee. A further protection is that researchers are normally required to destroy the de-identified data that they obtained 5 years after publication of their last piece of research.

Are practices required to obtain patient consent?

In accordance with National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines, a waiver of patient consent has been granted by the ethics committee. This means that individual patient consent is not required prior to the extraction of the de-identified data. Patients have the right to withdraw and can easily do so by informing general practice staff.

It is good practice for GPs or practice staff to inform new patients when they first collect their personal information, that de-identified patient information from the practice is used for audit, accreditation and research purposes.

What is involved in taking part?

When a general practice agrees to take part, the University of Melbourne will arrange to install the data extraction tool (GRHANITE) onto a computer at the practice. The extraction of de-identified data will then occur automatically. Participating practices should display information posters and provide leaflets about the study in their patient waiting areas. If a patient chooses to opt-out, the practice needs to facilitate this (an easy process accessible through the PC running GRHANITE).

Some general practices may be asked to participate in a validation study where data stored in Patron is compared to data in the practice. From time to time practices may also be invited to actively participate in research or intervention studies related to general practice (this could include identifying patients for clinical trials). Any such studies would require additional informed consent. Practices are under no obligation to participate in these additional studies.

Are there any risks associated with participation?

We do not anticipate any risks associated with participation in Data for Decisions. The data extraction tool (GRHANITE) has been extensively used, over years, for other projects and we do not expect it to cause any hardware or software problems. Trained IT staff from the University of Melbourne will guide your installation of the data extraction tool and will be available to provide support as required.

More information

If you would like more information or think you might like to participate in Data for Decisions, please read the information statement and consent form, and contact us by email, phone or via the Expression of Interest form.

*Link to program protocol under construction