Patient-level health data from the State of
Washington can be purchased for $50. This
publicly available dataset has virtually all
hospitalizations occurring in the State in a
given year, including patient demographics,
diagnoses, procedures, attending physician,
hospital, a summary of charges, and how
the bill was paid. It does not contain patient
names or addresses (only ZIPs). Newspaper
stories that contained the word "hospitalized"
and printed in the State of Washington
were surveyed for the same year. Most news
stories included a patient's name and
residential information and explain why the
person was hospitalized, such as vehicle
accident or assault. This is the same kind
of information an employer may know about an employee
taking a medical leave, a creditor may know about a debtor
citing health concerns as a reason for tardy payments,
and family, friends or neighbors may know about a patient in a hospital.
The first step was to
look up the person's name, age and
residence information in online Public Records to
learn the person's date of birth and associated ZIP
codes. Then, a direct comparison matched news
story information and ZIP to hospital data thereby putting a name
to a medical record. The fields used for matching were a combination of
gender, age, hospital, admit month,
diagnoses related to the incidence, and ZIP,
Age is in years and months.
For more details, see PDF paper.