Flying Blind
The Australian Health Data Series

Flying Blind is a series of three reports dedicated to uncovering the acute levels of data fragmentation existing at all levels of Australia’s health landscape.

in collaboration with

The blog posts are intended to be read in sequence. We welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions.


Submitted by Greg Mullins
Research Australia
Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 09:00
My health record badge

Could you tell the triage nurse in the emergency department all the medications your elderly parent is taking? Before you go to Bali this winter, do you know whether you’ve ever been vaccinated against hepatitis A? And what was the name of that antibiotic you were allergic to years back?

All this information exists, most likely in the files of a GP or specialist, or a hospital you went to for treatment a couple of years ago. It is probably even stored electronically, but can you get it when you need it? 

Submitted by Michael Nolan
Monday, June 12, 2017 - 17:14
Destroy keyboard button

We’ve already had a look at the vast array of different problems associated with attempting to track Australian health and medical research (HMR) spending. We’ve also explored the hoops that researchers have to jump through when they apply for grants or seek to gain approval from ethics committees, not to mention when they make requests for access or linkage from custodians and data gatekeepers. One might be tempted to think that no matter where Australian HMR researchers turn, the data they need is locked behind bars that are almost impossible to open – so much so that it almost takes a special kind of resilience to finish their projects.

Submitted by Cassie Quilty
Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 12:00
Virtuous cycle infographic

Health matters to Australians. Health and medical research (HMR) does too. In 2016, Research Australia polled public opinion on national priorities. Eighty eight percent of respondents highlighted improving hospitals and the health system. Seventy nine percent of respondents favoured increased HMR funding. Indeed, these objectives converge; an effective HMR sector is fundamental to sustaining our world-class health system. To meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, both social and economic, we need to invest in achieving these goals. This is not a new perspective. In fact, it’s the reason HMR has been everything from a political football to a public-good panacea.

Submitted by Uma Srinivasan
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 06:46
Data maze

An earlier post highlighted several of the difficulties that Australian researchers face. One of the most prominent of these is related to accessing health and medical research (HMR) data. This is not due to a lack of data, or associated metadata directory such as AIHW’s Meteor, but rather due to a lack of transparency around the custodianship of the many health datasets that exist and the conditions under which they can be used for research.  Much of this stems from the fact that a large number of agencies and entities play different roles in the management of HMR data.

Submitted by Cassie Quilty
Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 13:54
Making sense of dollars graphic

Released in February 2013, the McKeon Review marked the most comprehensive analysis of the health and medical research (HMR) sector since the Wills Review in 1998. McKeon’s words highlight one of the panel’s most alarming takeaways. At the end of the review period, despite the “combined insights of thousands of individuals who contributed their ideas and time”, meeting with “over 300 individuals from universities, MRIs, governments, hospitals, businesses and not-for-profit organisations” and receiving 400 written submissions, the panel were not able to make a confident assessment of total HMR spending.