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Record Linkage in Healthcare: Applications, Opportunities, and Challenges for Public Health

Gulzar H. Shah, Kaveepan Lertwachara and Anteneh Ayanso
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Gulzar H. Shah: National Association of County and City Health Officials, USA
Kaveepan Lertwachara: California Polytechnic State University, USA
Anteneh Ayanso: Brock University, Canada

International Journal of Healthcare Delivery Reform Initiatives (IJHDRI), 2010, vol. 2, issue 3, 29-47

Abstract: Recent years have witnessed the development of new record linkage technologies that are increasingly being used for data integration in various application settings. The authors’ objective in this article is to provide a review of recent developments in medical record linkage and their implications in healthcare research and public health policies. In particular, the authors assess the key advantages and possible limitations of record linkage techniques and technologies in various health care scenarios where different pieces of patient records are collected and managed by different agencies. First, the authors provide a brief overview of deterministic, probabilistic, and unsupervised record linkage techniques and their advantages and limitations. Then, the authors describe current probablistic record linkage software and their functionalities, and present specific cases where probabilistic linkage has been successfully used to enhance decision-making in healthcare delivery as well as in healthcare-related public policy making. Finally, the authors outline some of the critical issues and challenges of integrating medical records across distributed databases, including technical considerations as well as concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality.

Date: 2010
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