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New online service offers quick answers to questions about hospital care

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research has just made available 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 can be used to answer questions about use of inpatient care, charges, quality of care, patient outcomes, and access to care.

The new service can be accessed online through AHCPR's Web site. Users can choose specific conditions, disease groups, or procedures and then request information relating to their choice, such as length of stay, total charges, and discharge status—including in-hospital deaths. HCUPnet users can 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 5 seconds or less.

For more information, send an E-mail to hcup@ahrq.gov. The data source for HCUPnet is the 1996 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). This project, which represents the fruits of a partnership between AHCPR, individual States, and the hospital industry, has produced the largest source of data 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 and stays that are not covered by a third-party payer.

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