Online Service Offers Quick Answers
To Questions About
Hospital Care

The U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) has a free new interactive online service—HCUPnet—that permits policymakers, researchers and others to send questions about inpatient hospital care in the United States over the Internet and receive answers within seconds.

"HCUPnet has the power to speed the pace of health care research and decisionmaking, said AHCPR's administrator, John M. Eisenberg, M.D., who added that the new option for obtaining information is part of AHCPR's expanding line of research tools and services. Dr. Eisenberg said that HCUPnet can be used to answer questions involving inpatient care use, charges, quality of care, patient outcomes and access to care.

The service can be accessed online by logging onto AHCPR's Web site Users can choose specific conditions, disease groups or procedures, and then request information relating to these, such as length of stay, total charges and discharge status—including in-hospital deaths. HCUPnet users can also narrow their queries by, for example, selecting categories such as patient insurance status, age or sex, or by selecting hospital characteristics, such as teaching status or ownership category. Most questions can be answered in five seconds or less.

The data source for HCUPnet is the 1996 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). This project, formed through a partnership involving AHCPR, individual states and the hospital industry, has produced the largest source of data in existence on the use, quality and costs of inpatient care for all patients hospitalized in the United States. The NIS database contains information drawn from roughly 6.5 million hospital stays at over 900 hospitals in 19 states. Included are hospital stays covered by Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, as well as stays that are not covered by a third-party payer.

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