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Overview

Important Features of Health Statistics and Data Sets

Health Data on the Web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health Data on the Web

Statistical Information on the Web

The Internet is a good place to look for already compiled statistics. Current data from federal, state, and local governments as well as non-governmental health statistical sources are increasingly available. Access to spatial information is becoming easier, allowing the creation of maps for visualizing statistical information. Keep in mind that while the Internet is a valuable tool, it is not the complete answer.

Remember that web sites are produced by organizations for a variety of purposes. Web sites provide a variety of information in many formats including:

  • Summaries and secondary material
  • Full reports with tables
  • Digital versions of data
  • Full data sets

Statistical Information Not on the Internet

Not all health data sets and statistics are freely or publicly available on the web. In some cases only summaries or partial data sets are available, and the full sets must be purchased. New privacy concerns as a result of the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations may cause organizations to limit access to data. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states on its web site that some data sets are so limited that a Medicare beneficiary might be identified when files are relinked although all direct identifiers are stripped out. CMS requires a signed Data Use Agreement (DUA) between CMS and the requestor to ensure that the data are protected in these files.

Finding Statistics and Data Sets on the Web

There are umbrella web sites that point to statistical information and data resources. These are called portals and search engines. A portal is a web site that is commonly used as a gateway to other web sites. A search engine is a computer program that retrieves documents, files or data from a database or from a computer network (especially from the Internet). Search engine algorithms may give a higher ranking to a site that contains the keyword(s) that are specified by the user. Google is an example of a search engine that points to numerous statistics and data resources across the World Wide Web.

 

 

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