Administrative databases, registries, and clinical databases are designed for different purposes and therefore have different advantages and disadvantages in providing data for enhancing quality. Administrative databases provide the advantages of size, availability, and generalizability, but are subject to constraints inherent in the coding systems used and from data collection methods optimized for billing. Registries are designed for research and quality reporting but require significant investment from participants for secondary data collection and quality control. Electronic health records contain all of the data needed for quality research and measurement, but that data is too often locked in narrative text and unavailable for analysis. National mandates for electronic health record implementation and functionality will likely change this landscape in the near future.
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