Researchers at Victoria University (VU) are working on a new electronic data system that they claim will eliminate internal privacy breaches in medical research.
Professor Yanchun Zhang, director of VU’s Centre for Applied Informatics, has received a $295,000 grant from the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Project Scheme. The university has previously received $150,000 from industry partner Next Online to help fund the three-year project.
The new grant will help fund work on new privacy algorithms to significantly improve access to health data in medical research.
In a statement, Professor Zhang said protecting patient privacy has been an ethical stumbling block for medical researchers striving for advances in the various fields.
“There have been many cases which show current systems are vulnerable to internal attack, with staff accessing patient records they are not authorised to access,” Professor Zhang said.
“The project will develop electronic data systems to overcome current problems to support data sharing among medical researchers without breaching patient privacy.”
He highlighted Medicare as an example where unauthorised access from internal staff compromised patient privacy. In 2010, Medicare investigated staff for spying on customers’ personal information.
Professor Zhang said creating new privacy preserves algorithms in database federations will provide efficient data access yet block unauthorised access.
“The medical knowledge that can be mined once these barriers are removed will significantly improve the quality of healthcare in Australia,” he said.
The Linkage Projects Grants Scheme funds collaborative research and development projects.
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