Health and medical data are considered to be private and confidential and are subject to numerous legal and ethical protections. Generally, such data needs to be rigorously de-identified before they can be released for purposes of research and analysis. This usually means that name information and, more importantly from a spatial research perspective, the location associated with the data, is removed (or if retained, retained at a very broad area like postcode). It is therefore not possible for researchers to implement any of the more advanced geographical analyses or to link to meaningful socio-economic and other demographic or environmental indicators to the data, without the use of a technology like the GRAPHC G-Tag system.
The G-Tag system developed by GRAPHC offers a means by which precision location data (even for distance and travel time analyses which requires co-ordinates) can be made available to researchers WITHOUT compromising the de-identified nature of the released data. The system was developed for extraction of clinical records from general practices, but can be applied to any situation where a database contains detailed address information together with confidential information to enable the confidential information to be linked to geographies which are broad enough to protect privacy, but narrow enough to enable useful linking or analysis.
The G-Tag system, effectively separates address data from the health and medical records, but maintains a globally unique link between the data and the location. Researchers will not be able to link addresses or coordinates to research data, but they can request geo-attributed administrative regions, geo-linked indicators, spatial analyses or geo-processing tasks regarding their data via the globally unique identifier (the GTAG).