Current Data Access Policy

Published online: 
27 September 2011

On this page


Introduction

The Analytical Services team sits within National Collections and Reporting, Information Group, National Health Board at the Ministry of Health. A goal of the National Collections and Reporting Group is to make timely and accurate data readily available throughout the health sector.

All requests for data held in the national collections are processed by the Information Analysts in the Analytical Services team (data-enquiries@moh.govt.nz). This document outlines the policies followed by the Analytical Services team when responding to data requests.

The Ministry must ensure that the Privacy Act 1993, the Health Information Privacy Code 1994, the Official Information Act 1982 and any other relevant legislation is followed when considering data requests.  For details on releasing identifiable data please see the Ministry of Health’s Information Release Policy, September 2001 (see Appendix 1).

Data access

Summarised data from the national collections is available through Ministry of Health publications, the Ministry of Health website Publications: Data sets and stats section, from the Information Analysts in the Analytical Services team, or directly through Business Objects if access is approved. Unit record data can also be obtained from the Information Analysts if appropriate (see Data available).

Data/Information requests

The Analytical Services team is available to respond to ad hoc requests for statistical information. Simple to moderate requests can be responded to within 3–5 working days and are completed at no cost to the client. Our programming staff may need to assist with queries more complex in nature so these can take up to 3–4 weeks following agreement of requirements and may incur a charge. In these instances, an Information Analyst will work with the client to understand their information requirements and prepare a detailed specification for the client’s approval.

The Information Analysts are also able to set up standing order reports to provide updated data extracts on a regular basis (eg monthly or quarterly). As this requires programmer input, there may be a cost per extract.

Requesting your own information

Under the Privacy Act 1993 you are able to request a copy of any data held about you. Should you wish to do this, please email information@moh.govt.nz with the specific information you would like as well as your contact details and we will be in touch. Before releasing personal information we need to confirm your identity. We do this by asking you a standard set of questions.

Business Objects

The Ministry of Health has developed Business Objects universes for some of the national collection data warehouses. These universes can be accessed directly through Business Objects if access approval is given. Business Objects access is at different levels, and some objects are only visible to specific users. Business Objects does not contain encrypted NHI numbers, so if unit record data is required with unique identifiers this must be obtained directly from the Information Analysts as a customised request (email data-enquiries@moh.govt.nz).

Some national collections also have reports available via Business Objects Infoview for approved users.

Publications

The Ministry produces regular publications and pamphlets containing statistical data. Electronic copies of these publications are available to download from the Ministry of Health website Publications: Data sets and stats section. Alternatively, hard copies of can be requested via data-enquiries@moh.govt.nz

Ministry of Health website

Other selected data is also available on the Ministry of Health website Publications: Data sets and stats section. The tables given there are summaries of aggregated data. Many of them contain more recent information than currently available in print.

Data available

Data from the databases and warehouses listed below can be accessed through the Information Analysts or directly through Business Objects if access is approved. For more information please see contact one of the Information Analysts on (04) 496 2000, or data-enquiries@moh.govt.nz.

Cancer

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. An annual cancer publication is produced as well as a cancer survival publication. Note that direct reporting access is not currently available to this system.

Laboratory Testing Warehouse

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. Users who are granted permission by the Ministry can access data directly through Business Objects. If identifiable healthcare provider information (eg, regarding GPs, nurses) is requested, the Ministry requires a written response from the client regarding the purpose, the intended use of the information, and their authority to have identifiable provider data.

Mortality

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. An annual mortality publication is produced, as is an annual Suicide Facts publication. Note that direct reporting access is not currently available to this system.

National Booking Reporting System (NBRS)

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. Elective Services publish data in their quarterly report, and ESPI (Patient Flow Indicator) reports are produced monthly. Note that no direct reporting access is currently available to this system.

National Health Index (NHI), and Medical Warnings System (MWS)

For details on releasing identifiable data, please see the Ministry’s Information Release Policy (Appendix 1). As these databases refer to individual clients’ details, privacy considerations are paramount. Note that direct reporting access is not currently available to this system.

National Immunisation Register (NIR)

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. A set of standard reports are available to authorised users via Business Objects Infoview. Up-to-date immunisation coverage data can be found on the Immunisation coverage page.

National Minimum Dataset (NMDS)

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. Standard casemix reports are made available to DHB staff via the Health Information Network (HIN). Users who are granted permission by the Ministry can access data directly through Business Objects. An annual publication of public hospital morbidity data is also produced.

National Non-Admitted Patient Collection (NNPAC)

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts.

Pharmhouse Warehouse

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. All data requests must be approved by Pharmac, and the Information Analysts will forward the request by e-mail to Pharmac. The Ministry has been advised by Pharmac that no data should be provided to anyone making requests for information for or on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, and these groups should approach Pharmac directly.

Pharmac e-mail the standard Drug Expenditure reports to DHB and SSA staff on a monthly basis. Pharmac also produce occasional reviews and reports that are available for downloading from the Pharmac website.

Users who are granted permission can access data directly through Business Objects. Access requests are made as for other warehouses, but the Ministry will confer with Pharmac before granting access.

If identifiable healthcare provider information (eg, regarding GPs, nurses) is requested, the Ministry requires a written response from the client regarding the purpose, the intended use of the information, and their authority to have identifiable provider data.

PRIMHD (Programme for the Integration of Mental Health Data)

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts. Both MHINC (mental health activity data between 1/7/2001 and 30/6/2008) and PRIMHD (mental health activity and outcomes data post 1/7/2008) is available. Users who are granted permission by the Ministry can access data directly through Business Objects. A set of standard reports are available to authorised users via Business Objects Infoview. An annual mental health publication is also produced.

Primary Health Organisation (PHO) Enrolment Collection

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts.

Private Hospitals

Ad hoc or customised data requests can be made through the Information Analysts.

Costs

Most ad hoc requests are provided at no cost to the client, but if a significant amount of collation is involved there may be a charge.

Customised data requests are usually provided at no cost to Ministry of Health staff, and to DHBs requesting their own data with no added value from the Ministry. DHB requests that require other data or large amounts of programming work may incur a change. All other data requests originating from outside the Ministry of Health and DHBs may incur a charge. The Information Analysts discuss cost details of data requests with each client. There is a standard charge per hour for programmer and system time involved in producing the information required. Rates are charged in line with the Official Information Act 1982.

Appendix 1: Information Release Policy

Purpose

The purpose of this Information Release Policy is to set out the considerations that the Ministry of Health (the Ministry) into account when evaluating requests to release information held in the national collections. A list of the national systems and collections covered by this policy can be found on the National systems and collections page.

Introduction

The Ministry holds collections of identifiable health data that government departments, private organisations, researchers and other individuals wish to access.

Policy

The Ministry must ensure that release of information complies with the Official Information Act 1982, Privacy Act 1993, Health Information Privacy Code 1994, and any other relevant legislation. This Policy clarifies the application of that legislation.

The relevant legislation

A request for information held by the Ministry, from someone who is not the subject of the information or their personal agent, is a request under Part II of the Official Information Act 1982 (even where the requester does not cite the Official Information Act in their request). Such information is subject to a principle of availability (s 5) and should be made available unless good reason for withholding exists.

Information may be withheld if it falls within the scope of section 9 of the Act, provided that the reasons for withholding it are not outweighed by other considerations that render it desirable, in the public interest, that the information be released. Section 9 includes reasons relating to the protection of individual privacy. Therefore, a balancing of private and public interests is required.

Relevant to this balancing exercise is the fact that the Ministry of Health is subject to the Privacy Act. Therefore, the Privacy Act and the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 may be taken into account under section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act, which provides that good reason for withholding official information exists if the withholding of the information is necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons.

Procedure

Step 1 – Receipt of request

The Ministry receives a request for health information.

The Ministry checks the request to ascertain whether the data requested is information about an identifiable individual (and that the requesting individual is not the subject of the information or an agent of that person).

Step 2 – Does the information requested contain personally identifiable information?

This question relates to section 9(2)(a) of the Official Information Act. Section 9(2)(a) allows information to be withheld where it is “necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons.” Therefore, it is necessary to ask whether the information requested contains personally identifiable information.

If the answer is ‘no’, go to Step 4.

If the answer is ‘yes’, the following will apply.

Before accepting in a particular case that there is good reason for refusing a request pursuant to section 9(2)(a), The Ministry must be satisfied that:

  1. The withholding of the information requested is “necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons, including that of deceased natural persons”, and
  2. This interest is not “outweighed by other considerations which render it desirable, in the public interest, to make that information available” (the requirement to consider the public interest comes from section 9(1) of the Act).

In every case, an objective assessment of the facts and circumstances must be made, including the Privacy Act and the Health Information Privacy Code, before deciding whether or not section 9(2)(a) has been satisfied. However, the Privacy Act and the Health Information Privacy Code are not the only relevant privacy considerations that make up section 9(2)(a) of the Act. There could be others, depending on the facts of each case.

Rule 11 of the Health Information Privacy Code places limits on the disclosure of information. The Code is a set of principles that those who make their information available to Health Agencies can expect those agencies to apply. The limits expressed in the Code are therefore relevant to the balancing exercise. The method that the Ministry uses to determine whether any of the limits apply to the request is set out below.

A. Disclosure is authorised
1. Disclosure is authorised by the individual concerned – Rule 11(1)(a) & (b) of the HIPC

The requester must advise whether he or she intends to seek authorisation by the individual concerned to the release of the particular information requested. (Rule 11(1)(b) of the Code refers. Note we are not talking about requests where the requester cannot identify the individuals involved without the information requested, or at least their names and contact information.)

  • If the requester does intend to seek the individual’s authorisation, then the requester should reasonably seek this before he or she is given the information. Proof of authorisation must be given to the Ministry before it will release the information. Next, go to Step 4.
  • If the requester does not intend to seek consent of the persons who are the subject of the information, then if the the Ministry considers the individual(s) should be contacted and their views on disclosure to the requestor obtained, that obligation falls on the the Ministry (under the Official Information Act). However, this may not be possible/practical in some circumstances. Other grounds below may then apply.
2. Disclosure is specifically authorised by statute

Some statutes or regulations authorise or require personal information to be made available, eg, the Health Act. In these cases, the Privacy Act (and consequently the Code) defers to the legislation, and the restrictions on disclosure do not affect the operation of the statute or regulations authorising or requiring the personal information to be made available.

If no statute or regulations authorise or require the personal information to be made available, one of the grounds listed below may apply.

B. Permitted disclosures for particular reasons – Rule 11(1)(c)–(g) of the HIPC

The Ministry may release the information if it believes on reasonable grounds that one of the grounds listed below applies, or if it believes that there are stronger countervailing public interest considerations in releasing the information than personal privacy considerations. (Rule 11(1)(c) and (d) of the Code and section 9(1) of the Official Information Act refer. Rule 11(1)(e), (f) and (g) are not referred to as they are not likely to be relevant to requests made of the Ministry. However, if a requester believes they are relevant, then inform the Ministry before it considers your request for information.)

  • The disclosure of the information is one of the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained. (Rule 11(1)(c) of the Code refers.) (this may include reference to the legislation that sets up the relevant register, eg, the Cancer Registry Act 1993).
  • The source of the information is a publicly available publication. (Rule 11(1)(d) of the Code refers.) Where the disclosure is ‘authorised’ under Rule 11(1) there is no need to go on to consider whether Rule 11(2) applies. The balancing exercise will almost certainly favour release of the information. However, where disclosure is not authorised under Rule 11(1), Rule 11(2) lists provisions that may provide for the release of the information.
C. Permitted disclosures where it is not desirable or practicable to obtain authorisation from the individual concerned – Rule 11(2)

Where the request does not come within any of the above permitted disclosures, disclosure may still be permitted in certain situations where it is not desirable or practicable to obtain authorisation from the individual concerned.

If, after considering the requester’s views, the Ministry believes on reasonable grounds that it is not desirable or practicable to obtain authorisation from the individual(s) concerned, then the Ministry may release the information if it believes on reasonable grounds that one of the grounds listed below applies, or if its believes that there are public interest considerations in releasing the information which outweigh individual privacy considerations reflected in the Code: (Rule 11(2) of the Code and section 9(1) of the Official Information Act refer. Rule 11(2)(b), (d), (e), (f) (g), (h)(iii), (i), (j), or (k) are not referred to as they are not likely to be relevant in requests made of the Ministry. However, if a requester believes they are relevant, then inform the Ministry before it considers your request for information.)

Grounds on which disclosure may be made:

  • That the disclosure of the information is directly related to one of the purposes in connection with which the information was obtained (this will include peer review and quality audit). (Rule 11(2)(a) of the Code refers.)
  • That the information is to be used in a form in which the individual concerned is not identified. (Rule 11(2)(c)(i) of the Code refers.)
  • That the information is to be used for statistical purposes and will not be published in a form that could reasonably be expected to identify the individual concerned. (Rule 11(2)(c)(Ii) of the Code refers.)
  • That the information is to be used for research purposes (for which approval by an ethics committee (one approved by the Health Research Council or the Director-General of Health), if required, has been given) and will not be published in a form which could reasonably be expected to identify the individual concerned. (Rule 11(2)(c)(iii) of the Code refers.)
  • That the disclosure of the information is required for the purposes of a professionally recognised accreditation of a health or disability service and the publication of the information will not identify the individual(s) concerned. (Rule 11(2)(h)(i) of the Code refers.)
  • That the disclosure of the information is required for a professionally recognised external quality assurance programme and the publication of the information will not identify the individual(s) concerned. (Rule 11(2)(h)(Ii) of the Code refers.)
What about information required for research?

As noted above, most of the requests for information that the Ministry receives are for information required for research. Unless Rule 11(1) applies, consistent with Rule 11(2)(c)(iii) the Ministry will generally need to be satisfied that all of the following pre-conditions exist before it can release the information to the researchers:

  • it is not practicable or desirable to obtain consent
  • the information is to be used for research purposes
  • an ethics committee has approved the research, if required
  • the information will not be published in a form which could reasonably be expected to identify the individual concerned.

These factors represent a balancing within the Code itself of the particular privacy interests of the individual and the public interest in legitimate research. There may, nevertheless, be some cases where the balancing of the legitimate public and private interests by the Ministry may warrant disclosure notwithstanding that the above points are not satisfied. The Ministry retains discretion under the Official Information Act and will consider each case on its merits; see D below.

D. Public interest grounds

Even where none of the grounds in the Code apply to the information requested, in some limited situations, the information might still be released by virtue of section 9(1) of the Official Information Act. This section contemplates that the reasons for withholding the information are not outweighed by other considerations that render it desirable, in the public interest, that the information be released.

However, please note that, given the sort of information that the Ministry holds, these sorts of situations will be limited.

Step 3. Recipient undertaking

The customer must then also sign the Recipient Undertaking (see below), which sets out the terms and conditions of using the data.

Step 4. Are there any other grounds in the Official Information Act that may be relevant to whether the information is disclosed?

The Ministry considers whether there are any other grounds in the Official Information Act that may apply to the information, and whether the public interest test outweighs the consideration of those grounds.

The Ministry provides to the customer a detailed specification and an estimated cost to extract the data. Costs must be estimated in accordance with the Official Information Act (section 15 refers).

Recipient undertaking

(To be completed by recipients of information about identifiable individuals.)

Declaration to be made by the Recipient

I,________________________________________
(full name of Recipient)

of _________________________________________________________________
(address)

undertake to:

  1. Use the information provided by the Ministry only for the purposes set out in the proposal/documentation provided to the Ministry.
  2. Provide a secure storage environment and restrict access to personal information supplied by the Ministry.
  3. Limit access to such information to members of the project team (the personal information must not be provided, sold or otherwise transferred to any third party in any shape, manner or form).
  4. Provide the the Ministry with an advance copy of any article, documents, analyses, compilations, or any form of material produced from the personal information released by the the Ministry, intended for publication (it is the responsibility of the author(s) of any publications to ensure that information is not published in a manner which could reasonably be expected to identify any individual concerned).
  5. Acknowledge the the Ministry of Health as a source of information.
  6. Destroy all personal information on completion of the project and notify the The Ministry of Health Privacy Officer, PO Box 5013, Wellington, when this has been done.
  7. Comply in all respects with the relevant requirements of the Privacy Act 1993 and the Health Information Privacy Code 1994.

_____________________________________________________
(signature of Recipient)

____________________
(date)

Publishing information

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