Background: New devices and procedures are often introduced into health services when the evidence base for their efficacy and safety is limited. The authors sought to assess the availability and accuracy of routinely collected Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES) data in the UK and their potential contribution to the monitoring of new procedures.
Methods: Four years of HES data (April 2006-March 2010) were analysed to identify episodes of hospital care involving a sample of 12 new interventional procedures. HES data were cross checked against other relevant sources including national or local registers and manufacturers' information.
Results: HES records were available for all 12 procedures during the entire study period. Comparative data sources were available from national (5), local (2) and manufacturer (2) registers. Factors found to affect comparisons were miscoding, alternative coding and inconsistent use of subsidiary codes. The analysis of provider coverage showed that HES is sensitive at detecting centres which carry out procedures, but specificity is poor in some cases.
Conclusions: Routinely collected HES data have the potential to support quality improvements and evidence-based commissioning of devices and procedures in health services but achievement of this potential depends upon the accurate coding of procedures.