Anonymising research data identifiers across multiple tables

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    Hi folks, newbie on here, so bear with me !

    Hope I can help contribute to others questions in the future but I naturally start with one of my own ! And wondering how any of you experienced practitioners have dealt with this in the past ?

    We have a “live” database … and a research database that we want to create from this. The research database needs to be anonymised.

    Does anyone know of any tools or best practice techniques that can fully anonymise a research data set ? In my example, we can easily discard all the personal details and address details. thats not the problem. But crudely put. we have tables A, B, C (with some example identifiers)

    Table A – Patient table

    • patient ID = 23667
    • patient field 1
    • patient field N

    Table B – Interview table

    • patient ID = 23667
    • interview session ID = 3474
    • interview session field 1
    • interview session field N

    Table C – Questionnaire table

    • interview session ID = 3474
    • questionnaire ID = 42766
    • questionnaire field 1
    • questionnaire field N

    and so on and so on…

    These IDs uniquely identify specific events in the patients chronology in the database. And of course since its a pretty well normalised database, these IDs are also the keys that logically join the tables together.

    I want to transform these keys in the anonymised research database, so that they no longer correspond to those in the live database (ie no one can be traced back). But I obviously want these transformed keys to maintain the logical relationship between the tables.

    A long time ago I used to develop software, so I can think of some very crude ugly ways to do it. But there must be better smarter ways these days. And I can’t be the first person who wants to do this.

    Does anyone have any hints, tips, techniques or tools they could point me to ?

    thanks !

    Paul Martin

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