Administrative data are increasingly used in healthcare research. However, in order to avoid biases, their use requires careful study planning. This paper describes the methodological principles and criteria used in a study on epidemiology, outcomes and process of care of patients hospitalized for heart failure (HF) in the largest Italian Region, from 2000 to 2012.
Data were extracted from the administrative data warehouse of the healthcare system of Lombardy, Italy. Hospital discharge forms with HF-related diagnosis codes were the basis for identifying HF hospitalizations as clinical events, or episodes. In patients experiencing at least one HF event, hospitalizations for any cause, outpatient services utilization, and drug prescriptions were also analyzed.
Seven hundred one thousand, seven hundred one heart failure events involving 371,766 patients were recorded from 2000 to 2012. Once all the healthcare services provided to these patients after the first HF event had been joined together, the study database totalled about 91 million records. Principles, criteria and tips utilized in order to minimize errors and characterize some relevant subgroups are described.
The methodology of this study could represent the basis for future research and could be applied in similar studies concerning epidemiology, trend analysis, and healthcare resources utilization.