The data landscape is rapidly expanding. As a result, health researchers face a wide range of opportunities and challenges to both successfully capture and explore this untapped resource.
While many researchers are actively involved in collecting primary research data through surveys and interviews, large sources of secondary or administrative data are driving cutting edge research to study a myriad of health and social problems that can inform social policy.
Seeing the big picture in the maze of this complex and often messy data requires a unique set of skills. To be successful, researchers need to hone their role as ‘data detectives’ to effectively use and analyze administrative data. The foundation of this work is built on understanding the profile and history of the data they use. How can this back-story be uncovered and applied to the research?
Important steps include understanding the process of how and why the data was collected. Once these facts are understood, the data quality and suitability for the task at hand must be assessed.
Looking for clues and connecting the dots in the data discovery process also involves skillful management and analytic techniques including adherence to privacy protection and related protocols for the linkage of multiple data sources.
Once gained, these specialized skills and knowledge can open many doors to your research and fuel compelling stories to inform policy change.
Have an important health or social science issue you want to research? Learn more about how to better understand and use administrative health data in the Working with Administrative Data (PHDA 01) course, offered through the Population Health and Data Analysis program at Continuing Studies at UVic.
Kim Nuernberger is a Senior Analyst for the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). She is a specialist in population health surveillance and epidemiological studies using administrative data and the instructor for the Working with Administrative Data course this September. “I have been using administrative data to gain insight into health and health services research for many years and I’m excited to share this knowledge and passion for health data analysis with my student colleagues in the upcoming Working with Administrative Data (PHDA 01) course.”