The Centre for Victorian Data Linkage (CVDL) is improving access to linked, de-identified data for researchers, health services and government via a new cloud-based, secure data access platform.
The Victorian data Access Linkage Trust, or VALT, will enable dissemination of linked data within a secure-based cloud environment, with analysis undertaken via Virtual Machines (VMs). Under the new system, the data will be held securely in the CVDL technical environment, therefore providing a higher level of security than releasing extracts of linked data directly to researchers.
There is a trend across Australian and international data linkage agencies toward secure virtual environments for linked data access. Victoria is the first Australian state-based linkage agency to develop a secure online environment, with the CVDL driving this innovative approach.
There are many benefits in moving to a secure research environment for researchers, health services and government, including improved access (access is available anywhere in Australia), access to high performance computing power and the latest software within the VALT environment, as well as reduction of the security, privacy and storage burden.
The CVDL, now within VAHI, routinely links more than 35 health, human services, and other administrative datasets. Providing access to this data within a secure environment contributes to public and stakeholder confidence in the security and appropriate use of the data.
Selected projects have been trialling the proof-of-concept beta version of VALT. Feedback indicates that the VMs are powerful and suitable for undertaking complex analysis of large datasets.
Separate VMs (data environments) will be set up for each approved project, and registered users provided with access to their project-specific data via their project VM. VMs are deployed via Microsoft Azure, and provide familiarity and ease of use for researchers, as they “look and feel” like the interfaces of any other Microsoft application.
The CVDL will authorise removal of research results and outputs from the VMs to ensure that privacy and confidentiality requirements are met.
The CVDL is undertaking a phased approach to VALT implementation to ensure smooth transition from the current access arrangements. This includes developing processes for onboarding to VMs, online training and user support materials, security monitoring, cost recovery and release of analytics.
All researchers with current and new CVDL data linkage applications will soon receive more information on the new VALT environment and what it means for their projects. We will also continue to update you on the implementation of VALT in future editions of VAHI news.
If you have any questions relating to the VALT system or our plans for implementation, contact Mark Sipthorp, Technical Manager, Centre for Victorian Data Linkage via Mark.Sipthorp@health.vic.gov.au.