The North Carolina Division of Public Health (NC DPH) has been collecting emergency department data in collaboration with the Carolina Center for Health Informatics in the UNC Department of Emergency Medicine since 1999. As of August 2011, there are 113 of 115 emergency departments sending data electronically at least once daily to NC DETECT. Data elements include disposition, initial vital signs, up to 11 ICD-9-CM final diagnosis codes, up to five external cause of injury codes (E-codes),as well as the arrival date and time, patient sex and age, patient zip and county, and chief complaint. As of January 2008, NC DETECT emergency department data covered 99% of the NC population and captures approximately 4.5 million ED visits each year. As a result, requests for data from researchers continue to increase. Use of the data for public health purposes is covered by the mandate requiring hospitals to submit their emergency department data to NC DPH.
To describe the process by which researchers request access to data sets of emergency department data from NC DETECT,the history of this process,and the resulting best practices and lessons learned.