Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner
National Healthcare Disparities Report, 2005

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

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 U.S. Census Bureau 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 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), hospitals within the PSUs, and discharges within the 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

The NHDS contains a sample of discharges from non-Federal, noninstitutional hospitals, located in the 50 States and the District of Columbia. Only hospitals with an average length of stay for all patients of less than 30 days or with a general (medical/surgical) or children's specialty are included in the survey.

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, nonresponse for race in the NHDS is about 22-25 percent. Nonresponse for Hispanic origin is greater and is about 60-63 percent annually.

Contact Information

Agency homepage:

Data system homepage:


Kozak LJ. Under reporting of race in the National Hospital Discharge Survey. Advance data from vital and health statistics s, 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 and Statistics 1(39). 2000.



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


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care