This article examines issues of privacy and utility in health services research. While the availability and complexity of data have increased in recent years, privacy concerns have limited researchers’ ability to fully utilize these sources of information.
The authors discuss the relevance of micro-data research to health care reform efforts, identify the utility and privacy risks of several types of data, and issue recommendations to improve access to data while protecting the privacy of individuals.
There will always be tension between privacy concerns and research access. In order to encourage the production of high-quality, timely health services research, the authors recommend that delays in access be reduced and the use of data enclaves encouraged. Finally, the authors recommend the development of a body of knowledge around the availability of technologies that promote data access while protecting privacy.