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Keywords:

  • emergency departments;
  • research;
  • data sets;
  • health services

Abstract

The 2009 Academic Emergency Medicine consensus conference focused on “Public Health in the ED: Surveillance, Screening and Intervention.” One conference breakout session discussed the significant research value of health-related data sets. This article represents the proceedings from that session, primarily focusing on emergency department (ED)-related data sets and includes examples of the use of a data set based on ED visits for research purposes. It discusses types of ED-related data sets available, highlights barriers to research use of ED-related data sets, and notes limitations of these data sets. The paper highlights future directions and challenges to using these important sources of data for research, including identification of five main needs related to enhancing the use of ED-related data sets. These are 1) electronic linkage of initial and follow-up ED visits and linkage of information about ED visits to other outcomes, including costs of care, while maintaining deidentification of the data; 2) timely data access with minimal barriers; 3) complete data collection for clinically relevant and/or historical data elements, such as the external cause-of-injury code; 4) easy access to data that can be parsed into smaller jurisdictions (such as states) for policy and/or research purposes, while maintaining confidentiality; and 5) linkages between health survey data and health claims data. ED-related data sets contain much data collected directly from health care facilities, individual patient records, and multiple other sources that have significant potential impact for studying and improving the health of individuals and the population.