Data service at HIC

Our Data Service offers a comprehensive range of data linkage services to support researchers and other data users.

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Data linkage

Can you think of any examples of where data linkage would help improve health care?

HIC can support research projects from beginning to end.

Through governance agreements with NHS Tayside and NHS Fife, HIC hosts a range of linkable routinely-collected administrative health datasets which can be used to identify and describe study cohorts to answer research questions. HIC operate a cost recovery model and do not profit from NHS Data.

For example a research question may be “Is the coeliac disorder associated with increased cardiovascular disease?” we can identify a cohort of patients with these conditions using retrospective data, for example test results from NHS Laboratories, Primary Care Prescribing and Hospitalisation datasets, among others.

Once we have identified the correct cohort, we can provide linkage to appropriate data to define events, treatments and comorbidities of the identified group with in our trusted research environment which enables you to carry out your research safely and securely.

HIC hosted data

HIC hosts and updates linkable health data for the whole population of Tayside & Fife, Scotland – approximately 800,000 living people or 20% of the Scottish population, covering:

  • Electronic Health Records (EHR)
  • Community-dispensed prescribing
  • Hospital stays, diagnoses, interventions and treatments
  • Lab results
  • Oncology
  • Medical images
  • Demographics and mortality
  • Local specialist clinical data
  • Disease registries including diabetes, cancer and renal
  • Various research gathered resources including genomics

Please view our dataset list for further details

Accurate linkage is enabled using the NHS Scotland unique individual identifier, the Community Health Index number (CHI). HIC maintains up to date data, through regular updates and data feeds from suppliers. Our data catalogue is extensive and longitudinal with many datasets covering more than 2 decades.

HIC are experts in working with the local health boards to obtain access to new data that we don’t already host, if you don’t see a dataset mentioned on our website, please do contact us and discuss, it may be that we can obtain it and link it to our existing dataset for research use.

Linking to your research dataset

Linking to Your Research Dataset

Data specifically collected from consented subjects recruited for studies, or gathered in other sectors such as education, can be enhanced by linkage to routinely collected EHR data, e.g. their prescribing history, other hospital events.

We can provide follow-up data for your study participants such as hospital events and health outcomes which is easier and less expensive to do using existing electronic health records compared to attempting re-contact.

Obtaining new or external data

With appropriate approvals from Data Controllers, our team can help access new datasets, adding missing identifiers (CHI seeding) with bespoke look-up tools if required, to enable linkage and facilitate new areas of research. This can be for project-specific use or hosting a copy of the new dataset, to allow future research to proceed more quickly.

HIC works closely with experts in health informatics and research methodology who can advise data users on how to make the best use of the data. We can also provide expertise on how to safely make data available for research, for example through the separation of dataset indexing (adding an anonymised identifier) and linking activities. If required, each use of data from new datasets will only happen in consultation with the data owners.

Data use register

The Discovery portal is a key component in improving transparency and trust in the use of health data for research where organisations and the public can see the data we use:

  • projects and research outputs we have supported and collaborated on
  • providing evidence of the value 
  • impact of the use of health data

Data Governance

Where appropriate, HIC can advise on and work with researchers, data controllers and suppliers to set out a governance pathway to enable research. 

This could be as simply as discussing the approvals required for a research project or negotiating agreements with data providers. HIC operate a streamlined and standardised approach to governance for retrospective data analysis in our trusted research environment. Researchers benefit from this by simplifying their project level approvals without compromising security.

When working with HIC, we can advise on whether the following governance is required, and prepare templates where necessary for:

  • NHS Caldicott Approvals
  • Public Benefit and Privacy Panel Approvals
  • Ethical Approvals
  • Research and Development Approvals
  • Data Sharing Agreements (DSA)
  • Data Processing Agreements (DPA)
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)
  • Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA)

Please refer to the dedicated Governance Service section of our website.

What’s Next?

Contact us!

To assist HIC in providing effective support for your project, the following information is helpful:

  • A brief description of your project idea or even a project protocol if you have it
  • An idea on how we can identify the right people for your cohort
  • Details of any new or external dataset you want us to link to

We can help you by supplying:

  • Feasibility and aggregate counts for grant applications at no cost
  • Cohort building and advice on the best selection criteria
  • Streamlined governance & support
  • Access to powerful compute in our trusted research environment
  • New dataset acquisition
  • Data linkage, pseudonymisation and extraction to our trusted research environment
  • Data collection system development

Further information on HIC's data service