Center for Health Statistics DSHS Data Standards Workgroup


  • Improve accuracy, efficiency and consistency in provision of health data both within DSHS and to external users, with the cooperation and agreement of DSHS programs and with senior management support.
  • Provide guidelines for modification of current and implementation of prospective data sets to facilitate data exchange and dissemination.
  • Establish standards consistent with development of an agency-wide integrated data repository for health-related data.
  • Establish standards for reporting and exchanging health-related data for all DSHS programs.
  • Standards will apply to definitions, standard groupings, rates and denominators, confidentiality, statistical considerations and data documentation.
  • Standards will be applied prospectively and will take into account current practices and mandates.
Methods and Procedures
  • Compile list of data elements to be addressed, organized by category (e.g. geographical, demographic) and identify impacted programs.
  • Assign responsibilities among workgroup members for researching and reporting on program constraints and concerns.
  • Invite "specialists" to present specific issues to the workgroup, where appropriate.
  • Discuss, establish and document standards in workgroup sessions.
    • Classify current standards according to source (e.g. DSHS, other state agency, standards development organization).
    • Review appropriateness and applicability of current standards.
  • Submit for approval to programs and management.
  • Establish procedures for monitoring and enforcing standards, with senior management support.
 Record Keeping
  • Maintain all materials in central repository, including workgroup minutes (informal), summary of discussions with programs, definition of problems, resolution of same.
  • A set of recommended standards for data elements in each category, taking into account confidentiality, consistency and usability.
  • Published guidelines/official policy (tbd)

Data Categories

Please note, this is a working project.  Additions and changes will be made continually. As materials are developed, links will be added to this list.

General – all databases

Relevant Background Information
Data Quality - coverage (time & space), accuracy, disclosure of known quality issues
Changes in data items collected and definitions over time
Data dictionary
Database structure
Date of update
Date/source of population data used in rate calculations
Definitions of data elements (e.g. primary, secondary syphilis etc.)


Race definition/race nomenclature/multiple race/ethnicity coding
Gender coding
Age definitions - standardized age cohorts/definition of teenager/teen mom/child/elderly


Identifier fields (name, address), privacy concerns
Use of FIPS county 5 digit codes, DSHS county codes, county names
Definition of public health regions, border counties, urban/rural, MSA/non-MSA
Hospital/facility codes - public/private
Residence vs Occurrence


Estimates, projections, census counts.
Clarification of update schedules, migration scenarios.
Establish dates for use of updated estimates
Identification of version used/date of publication.

Statistical issues

Definition of denominators, including size (i.e. per 100,000)
Treatment of "unknowns" in numerator and denominator
Minimum numerator/denominator size for :
a) Reliable rate estimates
b) Privacy Considerations - HIPAA
Standardized explanations of statistical techniques used for reporting
Confidence intervals, standard errors etc.

Mortality/Morbidity reporting

Applicability of ICD-9, ICD-9CM, ICD-10
Comparability ratio application
Other systems: DRG, CPT, DSM, etc.
Age adjustment, direct/indirect, appropriate use.
Choice of standard million
Severity/stage of disease

Data Linkage needs

Formatting guidelines
Commonalities of key linkage fields
SSN / other individual identifier

Cost/Payer Issues

Definition of uncompensated care
Issues associated with billed charges, costs and reimbursement
Consistency in cost data analysis

General References

Guidelines used by the Washington State Department of Health for Public Health Assessment

Information on Common Information for Public Health Electronic Reporting and public health informatics being developed by the CDC

Common Data Elements Implementation Guide DRAFT proposed standard data elements for use in CDC/ATSDR health information and surveillance systems. (337K, PDF, viewing info)

OMB Publications on MSA's and Race/Ethnicity

Links to external sites are intended to be informational and do not have the endorsement of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Also, these sites may not be accessible to persons with disabilities.

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Last updated August 14, 2014