What are Healthcare Data Sets and Why are They Important?

Healthcare analytics is based on data and data sets. Due to the diversity of healthcare data sources, data standardization is a key pillar for efficient and meaningful use of the information and collaboration between healthcare professionals, care providers, insurers, and government agencies.

Data interchange in the US healthcare industry is strictly regulated both on the national and state levels. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), published in 1996, includes the core set of healthcare IT data standards.

The HIPAA rules regulate the use and disclosure of personal health information (PHI) and establish national standards to protect individuals’ electronic PHI from data theft. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), adopted in 2009, is aimed to “improve health care quality, safety, and efficiency through the promotion of health IT, including electronic health records (EHR) and private and secure electronic health information exchange”.

Both laws insist on the importance of data interchange standards, including common encoding specifications, medical templates for structuring information, document architectures, and information models. And, of course, there are definite standards concerning data sets in healthcare. We should keep in mind that the purpose of health care data sets is to identify the data elements to be collected for each patient and to provide uniform definitions for common terms.