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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

ProcessProcess Description
Processes of Health Statistics This chart illustrates the social processes that shape how health statistics are collected. Organizations collect the information that forms the basis of health statistics; processes this material into standard formats, analyze it and report the results. At each stage, the expectations of data collectors, reporters, respondents and analysts shape what is collected, how it is recorded and how it is reported and interpreted. The chart shows that these intervening processes select material to report thereby making them meaningful and at the same time distorting the results. External Factors shape statistical process by setting standards and defining the expectations of observers, compilers, analysts and authors. In the chart these are shown as intervening filters expressed as the connections between parts of the process.
Actual Health Condition or Procedure Actual Health Condition or Procedure is the target of an analysis—what the health statistician works to estimate.
Expectations Professional Norms and Expectations grow out of the differing education and norm setting cultures that define the meaning of health professional's work.
Observation and Data Collected Observations and Data collected is a two part process involving the selection of subjects and the recording of information. Statisticians define the universe covered by their procedures and a method of collecting information about a smaller number of elements—the sample. The validity of the procedure partly depends on the match between the sample and the universe—how representative it is. Observations use several different procedures. In some procedures—such as household surveys—the observers are trained and dedicated collectors of material. But in others—for example vital records—data collection is a byproduct of another activity.
Data Records Data Records are the raw data resulting from the recording of observations. They must be processed so that they can be analyzed.
Forms and Definitions Forms and definitions specify what should be collected and how it should be reported.
Coding Rules Coding Rules specify the categories to be applied to the data records and the transformations needed to produce standard data sets.
Coding and Data Reduction Coding and Data Reduction Coders extract standard items from the raw data record imposing standard definitions on the material and creating records that can be analyzed.
Statistical Records Statistical Data Records are the result of coding and processing. Missing information might be estimated. Sometimes, diverse data records must be harmonized to achieve a consistent set of statistical data records—this involves creating rules to transform diverse pieces of information into a consistent whole.
Variable Standards Variable Standards set the definition of data elements and prescribe the meaning of conditions, risk factors and outcomes.
Health Models Health Models focus the attention of analysts and data collectors on specific aspects of the data to test its conformity with the general understanding of health processes.
Analysis Analysis is achieved when statisticians apply statistical theory, health models and population norms to the data.
Estimates Results and Reports Estimates Results Reports are what is actually reported in health statistics. These never fully achieve an accurate picture of actual conditions or procedure. Their quality is determined by the extent to which they do accurately achieve this goal in a way that allows readers and users to better understand the forces that lead to health.
Statistical Procedures Statistical Procedures draw on a general theory of data analysis that specifies approaches to dealing with uncertainty and employs logic of inference to resolve analytical problems.
Population Norms Population Norms and Data benchmark the results so that they can be used to estimate conditions in a broader set of people, institutions and circumstances than are actually observed.