A person may use different government-funded aged care services during their lifetime. The administrative data collected for these services provide valuable information for research, policy and service delivery. However, these data are not automatically linked across programs. Therefore, it is not possible to explore people’s use of different aged care services and programs with unlinked administrative data.

The Pathways in Aged Care (PIAC) link map brings together information, from different aged care data sources, about the same person. This is achieved using privacy-preserving linkage techniques that assigns a unique identifier for each person in each data source. The PIAC link map is a set of links to all records for each person. This allows us to construct of a chronological sequence of aged care events and present a more complete picture of aged care use, all the way from assessment and admission through to discharge and death.

This technical guide describes the PIAC 2020 link map, including data sources, linkage process and analysis data sets. Information on previous iterations of the PIAC link map – 2006 (cohort study), 2011 and 2014 – are available from the GEN website.

Data linkage at the AIHW relies on the use of what is known as a ‘spine’, considered the root source of individual level personal information, and used as the basis to identify the same person in multiple data sources. The PIAC 2020 link map uses the Medicare Consumer Directory (MCD) as the spine for data linkage. Aged care program data and deaths data were individually linked to the MCD using the person’s name, date of birth, sex, address and last date of program use and/or date of death. Both name- and key-based linkage were used, depending on the data collection. These linkage methods are described in more detail in chapter 2.

The PIAC 2020 link map contains aged care program data from the National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse (NACDC) and deaths data from the National Death Index (NDI). It spans 23 years of aged care program data (between 1 July 1997 and 30 June 2020) and deaths data to 31 December 2020. The aged care programs included in PIAC 2020 are: 

  • home support – Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and its pre-2015 predecessor Home and Community Care (HACC) 
  • home care – Home Care Packages (HCP) Program and its pre-2013 predecessors Community Aged Care Program (CACP), Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) and Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia (EACHD)
  • permanent and respite residential aged care
  • flexible care – Transition Care Programme (TCP) and Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC) Programme
  • comprehensive and home support aged care eligibility assessments.

The PIAC 2020 link map was used to create 4 analysis data sets – Recipients, Events, Assessments and Services – with content from the NACDC and NDI. These data sets contain information on over 122 million aged care service events for more than 4 million people.