“Does your trauma program maintain its own site-specific data dictionary?”


In the May 2016 issue of Trauma System News, we asked readers whether their trauma program maintained its own site-specific data dictionary. The results of this non-scientific poll show that many trauma registries have an opportunity to improve data governance.

Just over half of respondents reported that their program does have a site-specific data dictionary:

  • Yes: 56%
  • No: 44%

Experts say a site-specific data dictionary can help improve the reliability of registry data. An effective dictionary includes clear definitions of all the data elements in a registry. It can also include specific instructions on where registrars will find the appropriate inputs.

According to Sandra Strack-Arabian, CSTR, CAISS, an in-house data dictionary is also critical to good data governance. “We have the standardized data elements of the National Trauma Data Standard, however certain aspects of inclusion and exclusion criteria are not ‘one size fits all’ for every program,” she said.

Although the National Trauma Data Bank strongly encourages consistency with the NTDS, states and institutions may expand a definition or include additional data elements to fit their needs. “Wherever your registry deviates from NTDS elements or definitions, you want to make sure you clearly define what you are doing,” Strack-Arabian said. “Your dictionary should state what the deviation is; how, if at all, it is mapped; and why and when the data element is being changed or added. Therefore, a change log should be created to accompany the data dictionary.”

According to Strack-Arabian, an institutional data dictionary should be reviewed and updated by the program team on a yearly basis. That will help maintain registry efficiency and data accuracy.

“Registry resources are precious, so you do not want registrars to waste their time collecting data that is no longer of any value,” Strack-Arabian said. “The first and most important step in data management is having good data governance, and maintaining an institutional data dictionary is good data governance.”

Note: The purpose of the Trauma System News reader poll is to generate discussion and highlight important issues. Poll results are not statistically representative.

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