Navigating Access to SNDS Data: A Guide for Researchers in France

In the domain of healthcare research and policy-making, access to comprehensive and high-quality data is essential for driving evidence-based decisions and improving patient outcomes. In France, one of the richest sources of healthcare data available to researchers is the Système National des Données de Santé (SNDS), or the National Health Data System. However, accessing and navigating the SNDS data can be complex and overwhelming.

Let’s explore the steps involved in accessing SNDS data.

Understanding the SNDS

The SNDS is a centralized database that contains healthcare data collected from various sources, including health insurance claims, hospital discharge summaries, drug reimbursement records, and demographic information. Managed by the French national health insurance fund (Caisse Nationale de l’Assurance Maladie, CNAM), the SNDS provides researchers with a comprehensive view of healthcare utilization, expenditures, and outcomes. The SNDS covers almost 99% of the French population or more than 66 million people, making it one of the world’s largest continuous homogeneous claim databases.

Accessing SNDS Data: Key Steps

  1. Obtain Authorization: The first step in accessing SNDS data is to obtain authorization from the French data protection authority (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés – CNIL). Researchers must submit a formal request outlining the purpose of their study, the specific data requested, and the measures in place to ensure data security and confidentiality. Access to the data can then be carried out after obtaining the opinion of the Ethical and Scientific Committee for Research, Studies and Evaluations in the Field of Health (CESREES) and authorization from the CNIL.
  2. Submit Data Request: Once authorization is obtained from CNIL, researchers can submit a data request to the French national health insurance fund (Caisse nationale de l’Assurance Maladie, CNAM). The data request should specify the type of data needed, the study population, and any other relevant details. The CNAM will review the request and provide access to the requested data if approved.
  3. Sign Data Use Agreement: Researchers granted access to SNDS data must sign a data use agreement outlining the terms and conditions of data access, use, and confidentiality. This agreement ensures that researchers adhere to strict data protection protocols and use the data responsibly and ethically.
  4. Access Data: Once the data use agreement is signed, researchers can access SNDS data through secure data platforms provided by CNAM or approved research centers. These platforms offer tools and resources for querying and analyzing SNDS data while ensuring compliance with data security and privacy regulations.
  5. Analyze Data: With access to the approved SNDS dataset, researchers can conduct a wide range of analyses to address research questions related to healthcare utilization, outcomes, and costs. From epidemiological studies and health services research to pharmacovigilance and policy evaluations, SNDS data provides valuable insights into various aspects of healthcare delivery and public health. To be allowed to analyze the data, those performing the analyses need to obtain a certification.

In conclusion, accessing SNDS data in France offers researchers a valuable opportunity to conduct robust and impactful research that informs healthcare policies, improves patient care, and advances public health. However, considering the peculiar process and steps involved in the application it might be strategic to collaborate with an experienced vendor or experienced researchers, and data scientists familiar with SNDS data to avoid delays and maximize the quality and validity of the research findings.