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Siu L. Hui, PhD
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Regenstrief Institute for Health Care; Indiana University Medical Center; Indianapolis, IN 46202 Note: This article is one of a series of articles comprising an Annals of Internal Medicine supplement entitled “Measuring Quality, Outcomes, and Cost of Care Using Large Databases: The Sixth Regenstrief Conference.” To see a complete list of the articles included in this supplement, please view its Table of Contents.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1997;127(8_Part_2):665. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-127-8_Part_2-199710151-00047
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When we first held a Regenstrief Conference on large databases in 1989, health services research based on databases was relatively young. We were still identifying methodologic problems and trying to demonstrate the legitimacy of database research. There were plenty of skeptics who thought that database research should not be performed in most situations. Since then, huge databases have proliferated. The Medicare claims database has increased in great detail on some subsets of enrollees, large pharmaceutical benefits managers typically store billions of prescriptions in their databases each year, and managed care organizations collect several types of clinical and accounting data. Some of the databases have been linked to provide richer and more useful sets of information on individuals. The use of these databases for administrative and research purposes has become more creative. Policies are bing made by both the government and the private sector based on these analyses. Few would question the use of databases anymore. Yet many limitations and potential pitfalls remain. The promise of large databases can only be fulfilled if we use them judiciously.

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