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National Healthcare Disparities Report, 2004

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National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Mode of Administration

Manual sample selection and abstraction of inpatient medical records by Census field personnel or automated data collection through the purchase of electronic files from commercial sources, States, or hospitals.

Survey Sample Design

The NHDS utilizes a three-stage national probability design that includes primary sampling units (PSUs) used for the 1985–94 NHIS, hospitals within PSUs, and discharges within hospitals. Approximately 300,000 discharges are sampled each year from about 480 hospitals.

Primary Survey Content

Variables collected include: age; gender; race; ethnicity; admission and discharge dates (length of stay); discharge status; source of payment; hospital size, ownership, and region; from 1-7 diagnoses coded using the ICD-9-CM; and, from 0-4 procedures using the ICD-9-CM.

Population Targeted

Hospital discharges from short-stay non-institutional hospitals and general and children's general hospitals regardless of length of stay, exclusive of military and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals, located within the 50 States and the District of Columbia.

Demographic Data

Patient's age, gender, race, and ethnicity

Years Collected

1965 to present



Geographic Estimates

National, four U.S. Census Bureau regions


Data on race are not available from some hospitals because the hospitals provide data from billing forms that do not include race as a required item. In general non-response for race in the NHDS is about 22-25 percent. Non-response for Hispanic origin is greater and is about 60-63 percent annually.

Contact Information

Agency homepage:

Data system homepage:


Kozak, L.J. Under reporting of race in the National Hospital Discharge Survey. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, No. 265. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 1995.

Dennison CF, Pokras R. Design and Operation of the National Hospital Discharge Survey: 1988 Redesign. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 1(39). 2000.



The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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