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2003 National Healthcare Quality Report

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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 field personnel or automated data collection through the purchase of electronic files from commercial abstracting sources, states, or hospitals.

Survey Sample Design

The NHDS utilizes a three-stage probability design that includes primary sampling units (PSUs) used for the 1985–1994 NHIS, hospitals within PSUs, and discharges within hospitals. The largest hospitals were selected with certainty. The annual number of records included in the survey is approximately 300,000.

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.

Population Targeted

Hospital discharges from short-stay noninstitutional 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 for some hospitals because the hospitals provide data from billing forms that do not include race as a required item. A comparison of NHDS data with data for those who reported being hospitalized in the NHIS indicated that under reporting for whites was about 30 percent in 1992; the difference for African Americans was not statistically significant. Hispanic origin is not reported for 75 percent of the NHDS records in 1992. (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.)

Contact Information

Agency homepage:

Data system homepage:


Kozak LJ, Hall MJ, Owings MF, National Hospital Discharge Survey: 2000 Annual Summary with detailed diagnosis and procedure data. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 13(153). 2002.

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