As the availability of both health utilization and outcome information becomes increasingly important to health care researchers and policy makers, the ability to link person-specific health data becomes a critical objective. The integration of population-based administrative health databases has been realized in British Columbia by constructing an historical file of all persons registered with the health care system, and by probabilistically linking various program files to this 'coordinating' file. The linkages have achieved a high rate of success in matching service events to person-specific registration records. This success has allowed research projects to be proposed which would otherwise not have been feasible, and has initiated the development of policies and procedures regarding research access to linked data. These policies and procedures include a framework for addressing the ethical issues surrounding data linkage. With continued attention to confidentiality issues, these linked data present a valuable resource for health services research and planning.