Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get the data or information that I want?
The data on this website are organized according to the setting in which the care was delivered. See the Survey Overview for more information
What are provider-based surveys? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the provider-based design?
All of the National Health Care Surveys are provider-based with data collection at the level of the provider, such as a physician office, a hospital inpatient department, or a nursing home. The health care provider also gives us information about the patients who receive services and the types of care that are delivered. Depending on the setting in which the care is delivered, this information may come from a record of the patient's most recent visit, the hospital discharge form, or review of the entire medical record. Our surveys are designed to efficiently link characteristics about both patients and providers with the specific services that are delivered. This design is ideal for monitoring the delivery of specific health care services and understanding what types of patients receive different types of services.
Our surveys are designed to make statements about the total number of services delivered in the United States. Our long-term care surveys can be used to make statements on a per patient basis. Our hospital and ambulatory care surveys, however, should not be used to make statements about the number of people in the U.S. with a particular health condition or who have received treatment for a particular health condition. The data cannot be used in this way because the same person may have multiple encounters with the same (or same kind of) provider within the same year. In addition, we are developing methods to adjust for the number of ambulatory care visits each year. The goal is to improve the ability to produce per patient estimates from physician office and hospital outpatient department data. For more information see, Translating visits into patients using ambulatory visit data [PPT - 1 MB].
NCHS also conducts two population-based surveys on an ongoing basis: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Survey. These surveys are better suited to answering questions about the number of people with a particular condition.
Where can I get information about health care in a particular state or county?
The National Health Care Surveys are designed to produce nationally representative data. Some of our information is available by geographic region. However, there are better sources of information for state and county data. Some helpful links for this type of information are:
- FastStats A to Z
- State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS)
- State health department links (note: this link will take you to a site labeled "births," but it is useful for finding any state health department in the U.S.)
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
Where can I get information about a particular skilled nursing facility, hospital or other health care provider?
NCHS is legally bound to protect the identity of the people who provide us with data by Title 42, United States Code, Section 242m(d). This protects the confidentiality of U.S. health care providers and of their patients. Information collected in the surveys is used only for statistical purposes. No information that could identify a person or establishment can be disclosed. The staff who collect the data for NCHS, sign an affidavit making them subject to the Privacy Act, the Public Health Service Act, and other laws that require the data be protected.
A limited set of data on the performance of specific hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies are available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:
How can I get cost or charge data?
The National Health Care Surveys monitor utilization, a key component of cost. In addition, charge and source of payment data are available for the 2000 National Home and Hospice Care Survey and the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey. We are also evaluating the feasibility of collecting cost or charge data in the National Hospital Discharge Survey in the future. Inpatient hospital cost data, however, are not currently available. Links to agencies with additional cost data include:
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Agency for Health Care Research and Quality
I could not find the information that I was looking for.
E-mail us with a specific information request, or call 301-458-4655 .