Information release – researchers

IHPA 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.

IHPA can release ‘protected Pricing Authority information’ for the purpose of research to an agency, body or person under Section 221 of the National Health Reform Act 2011 (the Act). IHPA has interpreted ‘protected Pricing Authority information’ for the purpose of information release as referring to de-identified public hospital data.

A summary of the process for requesting ‘protected Pricing Authority information’ for research purposes is outlined below. For further detail on this process, please consult the IHPA Information Release Policy.

Please note that this process is not related to IHPA’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act). For applications under the FOI Act, see here.

Please also note that agencies, bodies or persons listed under Section 220 of the Act are treated separately to this process. These entities may access protected Pricing Authority information where it will enable or assist them to perform or exercise any of their functions or powers. IHPA may still seek input from jurisdictions on these requests prior to release.

Principles for information release

The principles which IHPA considers when assessing an information release request are:

  • If the data is for a valid research purpose – The Chair of the Pricing Authority (the IHPA Board) determines whether a request is valid under the research provision in the Act. Information will not be released where it will be used for commercial gain.
  • Whether the requested data is fit for purpose – The closeness of correspondence between the characteristics of the IHPA data and its intended purpose.
  • The view of state and territory governments – IHPA is a custodian of public hospital data provided by Australian governments. State and territory governments have the opportunity to make submissions on how they will be affected by the data release and to request any modifications to ensure patient privacy prior to release.
  • Whether it accords with IHPA data security requirements – Information will only be released after researchers have had approved a ‘data access model’.
  • Size of the request – IHPA is a small agency, with limited capacity to undertake data analysis, publication and dissemination beyond the release of information for the purposes of meeting statutory functions.

Resource availability

IHPA’s primary functions are to develop an annual National Efficient Price and National Efficient Cost, as well as to refine the supporting architecture for implementation of national Activity Based Funding system for Australian public hospital services.

The release of information for research purposes is therefore subject to resource availability and, as a small agency, IHPA has limited capacity for processing data requests from third parties. Under the Public Governance and Performance Accountability Act 2013, IHPA is also required to use its resources in a way promotes the proper use of public resources, the achievement of the organisation’s primary functions and to maintain financial sustainability.

For these reasons, IHPA places the onus on the applicant to identify the data sets and specific data items which would support their research. This ensures that applications can be processed in a timely way.

Available data collections

Researchers may request access to the public hospital data collections which are held by IHPA as outlined in the annual Three Year Data Plan and as listed on METeOR which is an online metadata registry operated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

IHPA 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 the AIHW here.

Data collections held by IHPA and the data items within these collections may differ between years due to ongoing refinement of the national ABF system. To understand what data is held by IHPA for a given year, consult the Three Year Data Plan. For the data items within the collections, consult METeOR or the IHPA data request specifications.

The table below sets out the latest data collections held by IHPA. The data specifications are updated annually, for the latest specifications see METeOR.

Data held by IHPA


Hospital cost data

The National Hospital Cost Data Collection specifications for the current round are available here. Applicants can 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 Standards).

Admitted patient activity

The Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) for acute patients and subacute patients, with additional data items in the Admitted sub-acute and non-acute hospital care National Best Endeavours Data Set (NBEDS).

Emergency patient activity

The Non-admitted patient emergency department care NMDS for emergency department patients and Activity based funding: Emergency service care NBEDS for emergency service patients.

Non-admitted patient activity

The Non-admitted patient NBEDS for non-admitted patients and the Non-admitted patient care Aggregate NMDS  for aggregate data on non-admitted services.

Mental health patient activity

The Activity based funding: Mental health care Data Set Specification (DSS) was introduced in 2015-16. See admitted patient activity for years prior to 2015-16.

Teaching and training activity

The Hospital teaching and training activities NBEDS. Note that research activities were added to this DSS in 2015-16.

Ensuring patient privacy

Under Section 279 of the Act, IHPA is prohibited from publishing or disseminating information that is likely to enable the identification of a particular patient.

Whilst IHPA data is de-identified, the data could still be disaggregated to allow for identification of patients. This is because it contains specific identifying patient characteristics including age, gender and postcode.

When releasing data to researchers, IHPA therefore follows sound statistical practice to ensure that the data cannot be disaggregated to enable identification of patients. This is primarily through ‘masking’ hospital activity counts which are lower than five.

In practice, this means that researchers should limit the patient and hospital characteristics they request from IHPA. This is because the characteristics may reduce the total number of separations by category and therefore the results will be masked and of limited utility for the conduct of research.

Applying for IHPA data

If you wish to proceed with a research request, please complete the research information request form at Attachment D of the Information Release Policy. The form should be sent to the IHPA enquiries inbox at enquiries.ihpa [at]

Please provide detail on your research project, how soon the data is required (bearing in mind the two to three months process time), what data collections you wish to access and what data items are of particular interest within those collections. The requested data should be provided in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

Third party controls on accessing IHPA data

IHPA requires all researchers who will have access to information to:

  • Provide a copy of a criminal record check;
  • Undergo IHPA Security Training (which can happen over the phone);
  • Outline and have approved a ‘data access model’ which outlines how the data will be stored (typically, the data must be stored on an encrypted USB key or IHPA laptop);
  • Complete a quarterly data controls questionnaire every three months; and
  • Sign a Deed of Confidentiality.

Further detail on these points is set out in the IHPA Third Party Usage of IHPA Protected Data Rules which is not publicly available. This will be provided to you once an information release request has been received.

Please note that IHPA releases data for research purposes for a period of one year. Researchers may request an extension for accessing the data after this data, with the extension to be considered by the IHPA Chief Executive Officer.

Process and timeframe

The process from receipt of a request to release of the information, if approved, takes between two to three months. This includes consultation with state and territory governments, seeking approval from the Chair of the Pricing Authority, preparing the data for release and ensuring compliance with the third party data controls.