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What do you mean? The role of data dictionaries in eHealth

What is an admission? You ask an ER physician and they will say it is when the patient with a stab wound enters the emergency room. Ask the trauma surgeon and they think it’s when they write “Admit to Trauma” on the chart (even if the patient is still physically at the ER). And when you ask the trauma ward nurse, they’ll say it’s when the patient is actually on the bed in the ward.

To add to the confusion, a neurosurgical patient (in PGH at least) who is placed in a borrowed bed in Ophthalmology will be counted by the NSS as an admission, but also by the Ophthalmology ward nurses.

What is happening here?

This is the result of the lack of a data dictionary. Essentially, a formalized method for defining concepts in a given milieu.

The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare has their METeOR, the Canadians have this.

The Philippines has started work on it. The lead agency is the Department of Health.

How about your organization? Do you have a data dictionary?


  1. Concerned wrote:

    This is good to hear. I just hope that the result is released in the PUBLIC DOMAIN and not be required to pay for some royalty of sorts, unlike some ‘studies’ that I have heard of.

    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    @Concerned: I know it will be freely available/accessible. They are now in the process of populating it with the data elements.

    I am not sure if public domain is the best license for a data dictionary though. At some point, some guarantee on the quality of the dictionary has to be placed by someone. I don’t know if being in the public domain assures that guarantee. (Caveat: IANAL).

    What other ‘studies’ were those?

    Friday, August 21, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

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