Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) has launched a new functionality which will allow researchers to search by specific population criteria across multiple datasets.

The “Cohort Discover” tool will be available on the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway and has been co-developed by HDR UK, University of Nottingham, BC Platforms (BCP), PA Consulting and the CO-CONNECT project.

Users can search by specific cohorts or demographic groups. For example, women in England between the ages of 18 and 30, with asthma that do not smoke.

Professor Susan Hopkins, senior medical advisor at Public Health England, said: “This is a genuine gamechanger for health research. Being able to search for specific demographic cohorts across multiple datasets opens up a vast landscape to really interesting and detailed analysis. The potential to uncover insights that can improve the health of specific groups in society is really exciting.”

The functionality adds an extra layer and dimension to the Gateway, enhancing the utility of datasets and enabling new levels of analysis and insights that will ultimately feed through to the front line of improved patient care.

The Cohort Discovery tool also enables this to be done in a fast, secure, de-identified and ethical way through the continued use of Trusted Research Environments – safe, secure locations to access and analyse the data, without the need to move it around. For the organisations who host the datasets themselves (“data custodians”), Cohort Discovery allows them to provide access approvals much more quickly than before; but crucially to retain control to who has access to the data.

Cohort Discovery is being launched in April 2021 across four core datasets, with inclusion of further datasets and developments through the year.