User Support

Do Your own analysis
Explore Expert Research & Limited Datasets

Why the NIS should not be used to make State-level estimates

"Can I use older years of the NIS that include State identifiers to do State-level estimates?"

AHRQ strongly advises researchers against using the NIS to estimate State-specific statistics. Prior to 2012, State is available as a NIS data element. However, these NIS samples were not designed to yield a representative sample of hospitals at the State level. AHRQ recommends that researchers employ the SID for State-level estimates.

Each NIS sample is drawn from the sampling frame consisting of discharge data submitted by HCUP Partners—statewide data organizations that agree to participate in the NIS. Data from non-Partner States are missing completely from the sampling frame, and data from Partner States are sometimes incomplete because of different State reporting requirements, different State restrictions, or other data omissions. The NIS is designed to represent hospitals and discharges nationally, including those outside the sampling frame.

To accomplish this, within each hospital sampling stratum the NIS draws a number of hospitals from the sampling frame required to net a total of 20 percent of hospitals nationally. The sampling strata are defined by census region (4 regions), hospital ownership (3 categories), urban-rural location, teaching status, and bed size (3 categories). As a result, the proportion of NIS hospitals in a stratum that are from a given State is unlikely to equal the State's actual proportion of hospitals in that stratum. Consequently, the sample of NIS hospitals is unlikely to be representative of hospitals in the State, and the NIS sample weights will not be appropriate at the State level.

The level of this "misrepresentation" varies across the States in any given year of the NIS, which further confounds State-to-State comparisons on the basis of State-specific estimates from the NIS. Moreover, for a given State the level of misrepresentation changes from year to year as States (and hospitals) enter and exit the sampling frame over time. This further confounds State-specific trends on the basis of State-specific estimates from the NIS.

Finally, because the NIS was not designed to be representative at the State level, design-based estimates of standard errors are not possible, which severely hampers State-level inferences. Moreover, the NIS is composed of all discharges from a sample of hospitals (a cluster sample). The hospital-to-hospital variation and the small number of hospitals available in the NIS for many States make State-level estimates very imprecise at best and biased at worst.

Internet Citation: Why the NIS should not be used to make State-level estimates. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). January 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
Are you having problems viewing or printing pages on this website?
If you have comments, suggestions, and/or questions, please contact
Privacy Notice, Viewers & Players
Last modified 1/5/16