Data access and release – researchers

IHACPA recognises that access to high quality and nationally consistent health information is essential for the conduct of research and analysis and to inform the development of policies for improving health outcomes for all Australians.

IHACPA’s Data Access and Release Policy outlines the principles and process in the access and release of data collected under the National Health Reform Act 2011 (the Act).

Under Section 221 of the Act, IHACPA can release protected Pricing Authority data if it is satisfied the release will assist an agency, body or person to conduct research.

Please note data access and release is not related to IHACPA’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). For applications under the FOI Act, see IHACPA’s Freedom of Information webpage.

Please see IHACPA’s FAQs on the data access and release process to assist researchers in preparing an application.

Frequently asked questions

Who is considered a researcher?

For the purpose of data access and release, IHACPA defines a researcher as a person or organisation that can demonstrate they are undertaking research to improve Australian health policy.

Certain agencies, bodies or persons listed under Section 220 of the Act may also access data where it will enable or assist them to perform or exercise any of their functions or powers. These applications for data are treated separately to applications by researchers.

What data collections are available?

Researchers may request access to the public hospital data collections held by IHACPA as outlined in the annual Three Year Data Plan and as listed on METEOR, an online metadata registry operated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Information on data items within the collections is also available on METEOR or as outlined in IHACPA’s data specifications.

Data collections and items may differ between years due to ongoing refinement of the national activity based funding system. Additionally, IHACPA does not store data from years prior to its establishment in 2011–12. For access to data from years prior to 2011–12 or for other health data collections contact AIHW.

The table below outlines data collections held by IHACPA.

Data held by IHACPA Specifications
Hospital cost data National Hospital Cost Data Collection specifications for the current round are available here. Also consult the Australian Hospital Patient Costing Standards (which outlines how hospital products should be costed) and the Independent Financial Review (which reviews compliance with the Australian Hospital Patient Costing Standards).
Admitted acute patient activity Admitted patient care National Minimum Data Set (APC NMDS) and Admitted patient care National Best Endeavours Data Set (APC NBEDS) for admitted acute patients.

Admitted subacute and non-acute patient activity

Admitted subacute and non-acute hospital care NBEDS (ASNHC NBEDS) for admitted subacute patients and non-acute patients.
Emergency patient activity Non-admitted patient emergency department care NMDS (NAPEDC NMDS) for emergency department patients and Emergency service care NBEDS (ESC NBEDS) and Emergency service care aggregate NBEDS (ESCA NBEDS) for emergency service patients.
Non-admitted patient activity Non-admitted patient NBEDS (NAP NBEDS) for non-admitted patients and the Non-admitted patient care aggregate NBEDS (NAPC Agg NBEDS) for aggregate data on non-admitted services.
Mental health patient activity Activity based funding: Mental health care NBEDS (ABF MHC NBEDS) was introduced in 2015–16. See admitted patient activity for years prior to 2015–16.
Teaching, training and research activity Hospital teaching, training and research activities NBEDS (HTTRA NBEDS). Note that research activities were added in 2015–16.

How do I submit a data request?

If you wish to proceed with a data request for research purposes, please complete the Data Request Form.

The form should be sent to

Does my request need to be accompanied by ethics approval?

Generally, IHACPA and Australian jurisdictions require research data requests to be accompanied with evidence of ethics approval/s. Researchers may be required to obtain additional ethics approvals or amend existing ethics approvals.

Further details and advice about what constitutes research which requires ethical review is available from the National Health and Medical Research Council

How is data supplied?

In most instances, IHACPA will supply data through the Secure Data Management System (SDMS). The SDMS is a secure online platform that does not allow for the direct download of data.

In order to access the SDMS, researchers must undergo security training and submit documentation including a recent criminal record check.

Researchers must undertake analysis within the SDMS and the transfer of data to or from the SDMS is only via approval from IHACPA. Approval to remove data from the SDMS will take approximately three to four weeks and must not pose any risk to patient privacy and/or confidentiality.

How long can I access data for?

Researchers can apply to access data for a period of up to 12 months. Researchers can request an extension when the allocated access period is due to lapse. Extensions are granted at the discretion of the Chief Executive Officer of IHACPA.

How are data requests reviewed?

Initial consideration of data requests is completed by IHACPA. IHACPA will contact the applicant following the initial review.

If a request aligns with the principles outlined in Chapter 3 of the Data Access and Release Policy, IHACPA will put the request forward for consideration by Australian jurisdictions. Jurisdictions will be provided at least two weeks to comment on the request. 

IHACPA may seek to have an applicant amend their request for data if it does not comply with the Data Access and Release Policy or if jurisdictions raise issues with the data request.

How long does it take for a data request to be fulfilled?

If approved, the process from receipt of a request to release of data takes at least two to three months. Complex or incomplete requests can elongate the process. It is for this reason that IHACPA recommends researchers read the Data Access and Release Policy in full and consider issues like patient privacy when drafting their application.

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