What is The Health Improvement Network (THIN)?
THIN is a collaboration between INPS and Cegedim Healthcare Software. INPS has written unobtrusive data collection software for THIN, which is incorporated into Vision. THINs membership is made up of GPs from Vision practices.
The main licensee of the THIN database is IMS Health, an organisation providing access to research data. Since 2015 IMS Health incorporates the medical research staff who were instrumental in developing the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) in the late 1980s. The staff at IMS Health have spent over 20 years facilitating the research use of UK GP Primary Care databases. IMS Health’s clients include prestigious academic research groups, as well as major pharmaceutical companies.
Are we allowed to provide confidential patient-related data to such a database?
Many UK general practices provide anonymised data to research databases, and there is no impediment to this, providing you ensure that the data are anonymised and used in accordance with ethical principles. THIN data are anonymised prior to leaving the practice during the data collection (or draw-down) process – this ensures that all patient identifiers, such as name, address, date of birth, post code, hospital number, etc. are NOT collected. The patient is known only by the code number which your computer allocates to him/her, and cannot be identified outside your practice. The Department of Health’s South East Multicentre Research Ethical Committee has approved the THIN scheme.
Can I provide data to THIN if I am already providing data to another research database?
Yes. We are not aware of any restrictive contracts with any other research databases.
Is THIN only open to practices in England?
No, we already have many contributors from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Will our practice be identifiable?
The identities and addresses of individual practices are not revealed to researchers.
Will the data extraction process damage our practice computer or invalidate our maintenance contract with our computer supplier?
INPS assures you that the data extraction will not adversely affect your system or invalidate your maintenance contract. For the initial data collection INPS “dial-in” and run the program on-site; it will not affect your system performance. Data would be extracted and then transmitted directly to them via this connection. If your practice is on AEROS in England or Wales INPS will connect directly to your managed server to run the collection.
Does the data collection process take long?
No, it is an automatic process, that will run overnight as a low priority program and will not affect any updates.
Will we be asked to do any additional work?
There may be an opportunity for extra payments if researchers seek supplementary data about selected patients. However, practices can choose not to undertake additional work.
What is the Profit Share Scheme?
This is another benefit of the THIN scheme. We believe that data providers should share in the success of THIN, therefore THIN pays practices who have contributed data throughout the previous calendar year, a percentage of profits generated by research using THIN data. The amount is shared equally by all contributing practices.
It all sounds too good to be true. What are the drawbacks?
There are none.
As a THIN contributor you will receive advisory feedback on the quality of data collection in your practice. If you are unable to record data satisfactorily despite help and support, your data will cease to be collected, and you will lose your status as a data provider to THIN. Should you subsequently achieve the required standards and wish to re-join the scheme, you will be able to.
If we join the scheme, are we committed to provide data for any length of time?
The database is obviously more useful if it contains longitudinal information on patients, but practices are free to leave the scheme at any time.
THIN’s database is a collection of pseudonymised primary care electronic medical records, from more than 450 GP practices. It holds data on more than 3.5million active patients; a representation of the UK population by age, gender, medical conditions and death rates, adjusted for demographics and social deprivation.
THIN’s Additional Information Service (AIS) also collects these patients’ non-electronic medical data for ethically approved medical research studies if the practice agree to this provision.
Want to know more?
- For information and benefits of joining THIN, click here
- To find out more about us, our researchers, data collection and ethics, click here
- To discover more about the THIN’s Additional Information Service and Advisory Group, click here
Get in touch
To get in touch with one of the THIN team or to join, please complete and submit the form below.