Participant characteristics and reasons for non-consent to health information linkage for research: experiences from the ATHENA COVID-19 study

Kim Greaves*, Amanda King*, Zoltan Bourne, Jennifer Welsh, Mark Morgan, M. Ximena Tolosa, Carissa Bonner, Tony Stanton, Michael Fryer, Rosemary Korda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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The linkage of primary care, hospital and other health registry data is a global goal, and a consent-based approach is often used. Understanding the attitudes of why participants take part is important, yet little is known about reasons for non-participation. The ATHENA COVID-19 feasibility study investigated: 1) health outcomes of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Queensland, Australia through primary care health data linkage using consent, and 2) created a cohort of patients willing to be re-contacted in future to participate in clinical trials. This report describes the characteristics of participants declining to participate and reasons for non-consent. 


Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from January 1st, 2020, to December 31st, 2020, were invited to consent to having their primary healthcare data extracted from their GP into a Queensland Health database and linked to other data sets for ethically approved research. Patients were also asked to consent to future recontact for participation in clinical trials. Outcome measures were proportions of patients consenting to data extraction, permission to recontact, and reason for consent decline. 


Nine hundred and ninety-five participants were approached and 842(85%) reached a consent decision. 581(69%), 615(73%) and 629(75%) consented to data extraction, recontact, or both, respectively. Mean (range) age of consenters and non-consenters were 50.6(22-77) and 46.1(22-77) years, respectively. Adjusting for age, gender and remoteness, older participants were more likely to consent than younger (aOR 1.02, 95%CI 1.01 to 1.03). The least socio-economically disadvantaged were more likely to consent than the most disadvantaged (aOR 2.20, 95% 1.33 to 3.64). There was no difference in consent proportions regarding gender or living in more remote regions. The main reasons for non-consent were ‘not interested in research’ (37%), ‘concerns about privacy’ (15%), ‘not registered with a GP’ (8%) and ‘too busy/no time’ (7%). ‘No reason’ was given in 20%. 


Younger participants and the more socio-economically deprived are more likely to non-consent to primary care data linkage. Lack of patient interest in research, time required to participate and privacy concerns, were the most common reasons cited for non-consent. Future health care data linkage studies addressing these issues may prove helpful.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2024


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