Common Healthcare Data Types
Big data is a descriptive term for the vast amount of data that’s available to work with in any given industry. Specifically focusing on the healthcare industry, there’s an overwhelming amount of data moving at high speeds, and there’s a great variety of data, as well. While this is a benefit, it’s also a great challenge for those seeking to deal with that data, analyze it, and use it to create new solutions, processes, products, and services. But what types of data are there within big data? Where are some of the sources healthcare professionals can use to find the information they’re looking for? Volumes could be written about even a small subset of the data sources available, but we’ll focus on just a few of the most common types of data in the healthcare field.
Healthcare databases exist both generally and within specific fields. There are more databases than you can imagine, many of which are public. There also private and paid databases used by those in academia and more specialized areas of healthcare, as well. Here are some of the public databases that anyone, including healthcare researchers and professionals, can use to obtain data.
Healthdata.gov is a website that functions as a repository of all kinds of healthcare data. From clinical tests to Medicare information, there’s a wealth of knowledge there for anyone who wants or needs it. They even have a section just for developers, which is helpful for those creating applications or technological interfaces and devices.
PsycINFO, as the name implies, is a healthcare database exclusively for information regarding psychology, psychiatry, and mental health. While much of their research and information is available to the public, there are also membership levels and individual journal subscriptions on offer for those who want more in-depth access and full-length articles.
PubMed is another online database that’s available to the public. They have a wide range of free content on offer as well as subscriptions and memberships for those who want more access. PubMed has information on just about every facet of healthcare and medicine, but it tends toward the clinical in terms of subject matter. That being said, if you have a question or are looking for information on any healthcare or medical subject, PubMed is a great place to start.
If it’s toxic, hazardous, poisonous, or bad for living things, you’ll find it on TOXNET. As the name indicates, it’s the go-to source for a wealth of information about environmental hazards, toxic substances, toxicology databases, and more.
There are also curated sources of data, or groups of data that are pulled from various sources. Registries, for instance, collect data from a wide number of sources about a particular population. This is usually done in order to track outcomes or treatment effectiveness. Collections are larger than registries and can usually collect data from more sources than an entire data warehouse. In this way, they’re more comprehensive but often more difficult to use, access, and navigate. Primary sources of data almost always come from electronic health records (EHRs), surveys, clinical research studies, and the like. When curation begins, these primary sources, and some others can be aggregated into repositories aimed at various illnesses, drug categories, populations, or any other organizational structure that might be appropriate for a given study or project.
Research and Trials
Of course, there are also primary sources of data like research studies and clinical trials. These sources provide most of the foundation data upon which curated sources, datasets, and other conglomerates are based. Research and trial data are both exceptionally valuable, whether they’re used independently or as part of a curated source.
Similar to curated sources, datasets committed to various and specific areas of healthcare data exist, as well. One example is the Uniform Ambulatory Care Data Set (UACDS) which regulates data pertaining to, as the name implies, ambulatory care. This dataset includes information such as why the encounter was necessary, the living arrangements and marital statuses of those involved, and more. The Outcomes and Assessments Information Set (OASIS) is a standardized dataset dedicated to the rigorous measurement of the outcomes of patient home healthcare. It was originally created to help gather data on Medicare recipients who receive this care but is also used to monitor the industry as a whole and ensure quality.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of the data types that exist, it’s fair to say that these are some of the most common data types in healthcare. Data analytics relies heavily upon the sources listed here, as well as others, in order to continue developing new products and services and making new discoveries. While the types of data we use will no doubt continue to evolve, it’s fair to say that most of these data types will exist in some form or another for the foreseeable future and help researchers, developers, and practitioners make better decisions and pursue a higher quality of overall healthcare.