4364.0.55.015 - National Health Survey: Persons accessing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidised prescriptions, 2014-15  
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This research paper showcases the integration of the 2014-15 National Health Survey (NHS) with the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) asset. The MADIP asset includes data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which funds access to the supply of medications via subsidised prescriptions through the PBS and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) by the Australian Government. The analysis presented assesses the feasibility of using data from the PBS represented in the MADIP asset to replace the medications questionnaire module in future NHS cycles, and explores the use of PBS subsidised prescriptions by participants in the linked 2014-15 NHS dataset.


The NHS is an Australia-wide health survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) which collects information about the health of people, including:

  • prevalence of long-term health conditions
  • health risk factors such as smoking, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption and physical activity
  • demographic and socioeconomic characteristics
  • health related actions such as medication use.

MADIP is a partnership among Australian Government agencies to develop a secure and enduring approach for combining information on healthcare, education, government payments, personal income tax, and population demographics (including the Census) to create a comprehensive picture of Australia over time.

The 2014-15 NHS is the first ABS household survey to be linked to the MADIP asset and provides the opportunity to explore, investigate and better understand relationships between health status as measured in the NHS and use of government services. For more information regarding the integration of the 2014-15 NHS with the MADIP asset, see: 4321.0 - Research Paper: Integration of the National Health Survey with the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP), 2014-15.

Driver for change

The ABS is making more use of administrative data to help inform policy decisions and research questions. Using administrative data has many advantages compared with collecting data through surveys including: reducing respondent burden; minimising respondent recall bias; and reducing costs. The ABS uses supermarket scanner data to improve the processing of the Consumer Price Index, tax data to support business collections, and more recently has explored opportunities to replace some household survey questions with existing administrative data from the MADIP.

One such example is covered in this research paper, where the ABS proposes to replace the direct collection of medications information with the PBS subsidised prescriptions data in the MADIP asset.


The 2014-15 NHS was conducted in all states and territories and across urban, rural and remote areas of Australia from July 2014 to June 2015. The survey included 19,257 people in 14,723 private dwellings.

Results in this research paper are based on the 18,287 2014-15 NHS records that were linked to the MADIP asset (a linkage rate of 95%). The linked records have been re-weighted to represent the population estimates of the NHS representing approximately 23 million people in Australia in 2014-15. For more information on weighting, see the Explanatory Notes.

As the scope of the 2014-15 NHS excluded very remote areas and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there is no coverage of these populations in the linked dataset.

For the linked records, the analysis presented in this paper is based on PBS subsidised prescriptions for the 12 months prior to the NHS interview. PBS subsidised prescriptions are included based on the date of supply that a subsidised prescription medicine was filled at a Pharmacy. As a result, PBS records used have supply dates ranging from approximately July 2013 to June 2015. The 12 month data period allows for the analysis of patterns of medication use.

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