Implementing an electronic public health record for policy planning in the UK military sector: Validation of a secure hashing algorithm

Marco Tomietto*, Andrew McGill*, Matt Kiernan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The digitalisation of healthcare services is a major resource to inform policy-makers. However, the availability of data and the establishment of a data flow present new issues to address, such as data anonymisation, records' reliability, and data linkage. The veterans' population in the UK presents complex needs and many organisations provide social and healthcare support, but their databases are not linked or aggregated to provide a comprehensive overview of service planning. This study aims to test the sensitivity and specificity of a Secure Hashing Algorithm to generate a unique anonymous identifier for data linkage across different organisations in the veterans' population. A Secure Hashing Algorithm was performed by considering two input variables from two different datasets. The uniqueness of the identifier was compared against the single personal key adopted as a current standard identifier. Chi-square, sensitivity, and specificity were calculated. The results demonstrated that the unique identifier generated by the Secure Hashing Algorithm detected more unique records when compared to the current gold standard. The identifier demonstrated optimal sensitivity and specificity and it allowed an enhanced data linkage between different datasets. The adoption of a Secure Hashing Algorithm improved the uniqueness of records. Moreover, it ensured data anonymity by transforming personal information into an encrypted identifier. This approach is beneficial for big data management and for creating an aggregated system for linking different organisations and, in this way, for providing a more comprehensive overview of healthcare provision and the foundation for precision public health strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16116
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Early online date19 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

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