Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) developed this informational guide to provide an overview of common terms used when discussing health care data to promote a shared vocabulary across sectors. Given the diversity and complexity in health care data systems, this guide serves as a starting point for non-health sector professionals who want to further investigate the health care data available in their local communities and consider how to best leverage it to tackle priorities identified by multi-sector partnerships.
Data from the health care sector is essential to understanding and improving individual health and can inform the planning and development of population-level programs and policies in many sectors. Understanding the scope, power and limitations of health care data is a critical starting point in creating data-driven improvement initiatives.
This guide answers questions such as:
- Who collects and uses health care data?
- What are some common types of health care data?
- How is health care data stored and what systems are used to store it?
- What are the typical uses of health care data?
- How can different organizations access health care data?
- What data are available in my local community?
Key Takeaways Fundamentals for non-health sector professionals on using health care data:
1. Health care data sets are an important source of information for understanding health disparities and addressing health inequities in patient populations.
2. Most health care data capture information about services that individual patients receive during encounters with the health care system. It may lack information about whether these services led to a specific set of desired health outcomes.
3. Health care data is often formatted differently across various organizations, leading to issues exchanging data, interpreting shared data, and matching patient records across systems.
4. Partnering with existing collaborative efforts or neutral data intermediaries can create a pathway for accessing restricted data sets. When requesting data, be specific about the data fields needed and the intended use of the data.
5. Protected health information like electronic health record data is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but there may be other types of data that can serve your needs or a workaround that can be developed. Be flexible and enter the data sharing process with an open mind.
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