NC Hospital Discharge Data

The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research is under contract with the Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) to maintain, for use in research and state health planning, the NC Hospital Discharge Data (Inpatient, Ambulatory Surgery/Outpatient and Emergency Department Databases) collected by an approved state data processor. Yearly updates keep the research database current.

HCUPnet Data Access

Many basic NC hospital discharge statistics are now available through a query tool on HCUPnet. HCUPnet data are publicly available at no charge.

North Carolina Hospital Discharge Data

Prior to 1995, the Medical Database Commission (MDC) collected hospital discharge data. On September 31, 1995, the North Carolina General Assembly eliminated the MDC and set up an alternative system for the reporting of discharge data. Since 1996, hospitals have reported data to a Statewide Data Processor (currently Truven Health Analytics)  as set forth by the Medical Care Data Act of 1995 (Article 11a of Chapter 131E of the North Carolina General Statutes).

Since 1996, the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research has worked under contract with the North Carolina Division of Health Services Regulation (DHSR) to store, maintain and analyze the NC Discharge databases. These databases are not public records, but are available for research.

Data variables include patient characteristics, clinical information such as diagnosis and procedure codes and length of stay, payer information, charge information, admission source and patient status.

Variables are not always consistent from year to year. Hospitals were not required to report race and ethnicity data until 2011; concerns remain about the accuracy of these data.


Years Available through the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research (fiscal year files):
Fiscal Year goes to September of the named year (e.g.,
FY2020 = 10/1/2019 – 9/30/2020).

NC Inpatient Discharge Database

  • FY 1989-1994: data from the Medical Database Commission
  • FY 1995: data not available
  • FY 1996-2022: data from State data processor

NC Hospital Outpatient & Ambulatory Surgery Discharge Data

  • FY 1997-2022: data from State data processor (beginning 2012 this data includes expanded collection of all hospital outpatient procedures)

NC Emergency Room Discharge Data

  • FY 2007-2022: data from State data processor

Years Available through HCUP/AHRQ (annual year files):

North Carolina data, along with many other state’s data, can also be obtained from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), a state-federal-industry database partnership conducted through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). See The HCUP Central Distributor for fees and ordering information. HCUP has additional tools and software available free of charge.

NC State Inpatient Database (SID) availability of data elements by year

  • Annual Year 2000-2016

NC State Ambulatory Surgery Database (SASD) availability of data elements by year

  • Annual Year 2000-2016

NC State Emergency Department Database (SEDD) availability of data elements by year

  • Annual Year 2007-2016

HCUPnet is a free, on-line query system based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). It provides access to health statistics and information on hospital inpatient, ambulatory surgery and emergency department utilization. Search on national or state data.

 

North Carolina Hospital Discharge Data

Data dictionaries are available at the links below for the most recent years of North Carolina Hospital Discharge Data for our Standard Research File.  Dictionaries for prior years can be requested from Sheps Staff. Please note that variables may vary from year to year. Hospitals were not required to report race and ethnicity prior to 2011; concerns remain about the accuracy of the race and ethnicity data.

Beginning FY2016 (October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016) the NC Discharge Data will have ICD10 diagnosis and Procedure codes rather than ICD9 codes. For more information on this transition and links to comparison information please visit this link at NCTracks.

A variety of reports, graphs and maps are produced annually for the NC Division of Health Service Regulation on the most recent fiscal year of North Carolina Hospital Discharge data.



The NC Discharge databases are not public records.

Researchers and graduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and other universities, are encouraged to use the NC Hospital Discharge Data for public health research. Project proposals must be submitted for prior approval in order to assure the feasibility of the proposed research. Researchers can also obtain the NC data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), a state-federal-industry database partnership conducted through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). See www.ahrq.gov/data/hcup for ordering information.

Access Rules and Fees

Fees noted below are for requests for Entire Standard Discharge Level File or Subset of data variables (as defined by study needs). This does not include analysis of data or specialized data set creation. For all internal UNC requests, additional analytic time beyond basic extract and data preparation is charged at $98/hour. For external requests, the rate is $153 per hour.These fees support data storage, security, management and analyst preparation of the data.

*A “seat” roughly equates to one project-user. The same user working on multiple projects may be required to pay for a seat for each project. On the other hand, one project may only need one seat for multiple users depending on the project’s scope. Please reach out to Sheps staff to understand expected fees for your planned project. Sheps is committed to making healthcare services data available to UNC Researchers.
**The NC Hospital Discharge Data cannot be used for competitive purposes or market type research. Competitive or market research requests are always referred to Truven Health Analytics (State Data Processor).
Requestor Type Initial Consultation and Basic ETL (up to 10 hours) Additional ETL/Analytics First 5 years of data Additional years of data DUA Requirement Data Access Data Access Fees
UNC-Chapel Hill Researchers (incl. graduate students) Unfunded: $0
Funded: $98/hour
$98/hour Unfunded: $0
Funded: $600 per dataset-year
$600 per dataset-year Internal DUA signed by PI Data accessed via the Sheps Secure Research Computing Cluster $5,500/seat/year*
Other University Researcher/Faculty $153/hour $153/hour $600/year/dataset $600/year/dataset External DUA via UNC Office of Sponsored Programs Data sent via SFTP and subject to DUA terms $153 per file transfer
Graduate Students at any North Carolina-based Institute of Learning Unfunded: $0
Funded: $98/hour
$98/hour Unfunded: $0
Funded: $600 per dataset-year
$600 per dataset-year External DUA via UNC Office of Sponsored Programs
Must be supervised by faculty advisor
Data sent via SFTP and subject to DUA terms $153 per file transfer
Graduate Students outside NC Unfunded: $0
Funded: $98/hour
$153/hour $200 per dataset-year $600 per dataset-year External DUA via UNC Office of Sponsored Programs
Must be supervised by faculty advisor
Data sent via SFTP and subject to DUA terms $153 per file transfer
Other Organizations** $153/hour $98/hour Non-Profit: $600 per dataset-year
For-Profit: $1,600 per dataset-year
$600/year/dataset External DUA via UNC Office of Sponsored Programs Data sent via SFTP and subject to DUA terms $153 per file transfer
For preliminary requests and grant preparation we recommend the use of the query tool on HCUPnet. HCUPnet data are publicly available at no charge. National and state statistics are available for inpatient, ambulatory surgery/outpatient, and emergency department.

If this tool is insufficient for planning purposes, please fill out the NC Hospital Discharge Preliminary Data Request.

Step 1: Prepare your data request

Timeline: 1-2 weeks
First, download and complete a draft of the
NC Hospital Discharge Data Request Form. Submit this draft form here.

The Sheps IT Research Engagement team will reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss your project’s aims, budget, and timeline.

Download the remaining forms and DUAs required for your request and complete them.

Once you’ve collected all the required forms and signatures, submit all documents to the Sheps IT Research Engagement team for their review.

Forms and DUAs required for all NC Hospital Discharge Data Requests

Step 2: Submit your request for approval (UNC Researchers)

For UNC Researchers

Timeline: 1-2 weeks
Your request will first be reviewed by a UNC Oversight Committee. This committee may request additions/revisions to your request prior to final approval.

Your request will be provisionally approved pending receipt of details on project funding (i.e., CFS) by the Sheps IT Research Engagement team.

For non-UNC Researchers

Timeline: 1-2 months
Your request will first be reviewed by a UNC Oversight Committee. This committee may request additions/revisions to your request prior to final approval.

Once approved by the UNC Oversight, your DUA will be submitted to the UNC Office of Sponsored Programs. A representative from that office will contact you to finalize the details of the DUA. Once your DUA is approved, you’ll be all set to receive the data!

NC Hospital Discharge Oversight Committe Evaluation Criteria:

  1. Is the research question one that is in keeping with the overall focus of the Initiative and important to be answered, for North Carolinians or the US health system as a whole, either from a policy or practice perspective?
  2. Can the research question be adequately answered using the requested database? Are there an adequate number of cases to be studied for the proposed analysis? Are the right data elements available and specified? For the key data elements needed, is the quality of the data adequate?
  3. Is the proposed methodology sound and viable with respect to the research questions, population and data requested?
  4. Does the research team possess the requisite skills/experience and proposed resources to conduct the research with high standards and in an adequately specified time frame?

Step 3: Get your data!

For UNC Researchers

Timeline: 1-2 weeks
The Sheps IT Research Engagement team will reach out to you once your project is approved to introduce you to your assigned Sheps programmer(s).

Sheps programmers will begin extracting your project-specific analytic dataset from the master data. Data prep time depends on the capacity and complexity of the request.

If you aren’t already accessing Sheps servers, you will need to sign Sheps’ user agreements here and familiarize yourself with using the Sheps Research Computing Cluster.

Our programmers will work with you to ensure that the data extract meets your specifications.

Happy researching!

For non-UNC Researchers

Timeline: 2-4 weeks
The Sheps IT Research Engagement team will reach out to you once your project is approved to introduce you to your assigned Sheps programmer(s).

Sheps programmers will begin extracting your project-specific analytic dataset from the master data. Data prep time depends on the capacity and complexity of the request.

Our programmers will work with you to ensure that the data extract meets your specifications.

Once the extract is ready, a Sheps system administrator will create an SFTP folder to transfer you your data.

Happy researching!.

More questions?

Check out our FAQs or contact us anytime at ccqi@schsr.unc.edu.

UNC Researchers: For all publications and abstracts the following acknowledgment must be used:

The database infrastructure used for this project was funded by the Department of Health Policy and Management, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, UNC; the CER Strategic Initiative of UNC’s Clinical Translational Science Award (UL1TR001111); and the UNC School of Medicine.

 

All researchers are asked to submit copies of final journal articles to the Sheps Center.

 

Update your Data Use Agreement if you add new staff to your project, or if your project end date changes.

Contact Us

For more information email Dr. Sandra Greene
sbgreene [at] email.unc.edu