Describe the Source of Data for Health Care Quality Scores

Consumers are appropriately wary about the accuracy of the information in a comparative quality report. Here’s what you can do within the data display itself to engender trust. Describe:

  • The source of the data being shown.
  • If the information came from a survey, who was surveyed and when, who collected the data, and how many surveys were collected.
  • The time period covered by the data.
  • Steps taken to ensure that the data were collected in a standardized way by an independent person or entity.

Basic Strategy: Keep It Simple

Your goal should be to address only the most fundamental questions that may be raised about your data as briefly as possible within the data presentation. Whenever possible, put this information directly into your labels and titles.

For example, include the year on which you are reporting in table titles:

“Percent of heart attack patients in 2014 who received a prescription for a beta-blocker when they were discharged.”

At times, you may need to add a specific sentence such as “Source of Data: A standardized survey of a random sample of 300 patients from each physician’s office conducted in 2014.”

Dealing With Multiple Data Sources

If you have a single source of data, it is usually best to describe it briefly on your home page, although you may need to repeat some reference to the source within the data presentations.

If you have different sources of data, you need to make the source clear for each measure. For example:

  • “300 patients discharged from the hospital in the last 60 days answered a survey question on this topic.”
  • “Each medical group used a standard method to review all their patient records to provide the information for this rating. The data they submit are subject to independent audit.”

EXAMPLE: Describing the Source of Data within the Data Display

Title: Hospital Performance Comparisons, 2006
Sponsor: Connecticut Department of Public Health

Connecticut Department of Public Health‘s report includes information on the data sources and the timeframe for the data.

Source: Connecticut Department of Public Health. Hospital Performance Comparisons, 2006. Available at

Also in "Describing Measures in User-Friendly Ways"

Page last reviewed November 2018
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: Describe the Source of Data for Health Care Quality Scores. Content last reviewed November 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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