Obtaining SPARCS Data Overview

The administration and release of SPARCS data is the responsibility of the New York State Department of Health's Bureau of Health Informatics (BHI).

SPARCS data is available for inpatient discharges and outpatient visits. Inpatient data contains information on all discharges from Article 28 hospitals located in New York State. Data is not collected from Federal hospitals. Outpatient data consists of visits from Ambulatory Surgery (AS) and Emergency Department (ED) that do not result in a hospital admission. ED visits for patients who were subsequently admitted to a hospital inpatient service are contained in the SPARCS inpatient data.

Inpatient discharge data is available in two forms: Master and Abbreviated. The Master Inpatient file contains all data elements listed in the SPARCS Inpatient Output Data Dictionary and includes multiple records per discharge (continuation records). The record length for Master Inpatient file is 2,500 characters and the number of records is approximately 2.8 million. The Abbreviated Inpatient Data file contains a subset of Master File data elements that are commonly of interest to data users. It is limited to 489 characters and limited to one record per discharge and has approximately 2.6 million records.

SPARCS outpatient data files are available in three forms: Master Outpatient (AS and ED), Ambulatory Surgery Only and Emergency Department Only. All three forms contain all elements listed in the SPARCS Outpatient Output Data Dictionary and include multiple records per discharge (continuation records). There is no Abbreviated Outpatient file. The Outpatient Data record length is 2,016 characters. The number of records is approximately 7.3 million for the Master Outpatient file, 1.8 million for Ambulatory Surgery, and 5.5 million for Emergency Department.

An All-Visits Emergency Department data file is available and provides a complete data set on Emergency Department visits. This data contains all ED records in both the Inpatient and Outpatient data files and comprises approximately 7.2 million records.

SPARCS data is available for the following years:

Inpatient:  1982 to present

Ambulatory Surgery1984 to present
Emergency Department:2005 to present

All-Visits Emergency Department:  2005 to present

SPARCS data files are dynamic. Health care providers vary in their ability to meet submission timing requirements, add records to their submissions from earlier periods and replace records already submitted. Wholesale replacement by a provider of an entire year's worth of data is permitted and occasionally occurs. Operationally, SPARCS data for a calendar year is deemed complete following the August refresh of the data for a proceeding year (e.g. 2006 data updated in early August of 2007). This is based on analyses showing approximately 95 percent or more of data is posted to the SPARCS data files within 6 months of the discharge or visit. Details on the submissions by individual provider are available though SPARCS' data reporting Audit Reports.

SPARCS Data Access Requests and Processing

SPARCS data files are available with and without Identifying data elements. See Appendix M for a complete listing of data elements and their designation as Identifying or Non-Identifying. Requests for Identifying data elements must be approved by the Data Protection Review Board (DPRB) and require ratification by the Department of Health Commissioner before data can be released. Requests for Non-Identifying data are reviewed by the Data Release and Analytics Unit within BHI.

Data Access requests will be processed upon approval of a completed application, which includes the appropriate organizational and individual affidavits. Only those individuals/organizations named on affidavits may have access to data provided as a result of an approved request and only for the purpose stated within the application. Secondary release of any data is prohibited unless specifically requested in the application.

SPARCS data files are supplied as encrypted, password protected ASCII text files on either CD or DVD. Please refer to the Table below for complete information on the text formats. Files are not available in any other format. The size of the SPARCS files requires advanced computer processing capability.

NOTE:  There is a fee for all SPARCS data products.

Available SPARCS Data Sets

FORMATType of DataData Sets AvailableFile Layout
OLD FORMATInpatient:Master
Appendix VVV
Appendix VVVV
Outpatient:MasterAppendix VV
Ambulatory SurgeryMasterAppendix VV
Emergency Department:MasterAppendix VV
NEW FORMATInpatient:All Data SetsTable of Contents
Outpatient:All Data SetsTable of Contents

Data Access Applications

SPARCS Data - Non-Identifying Data Elements

Completed applications should be submitted to:

SPARCS Operations
Bureau of Health Informatics
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Room 878
Albany, NY 12237
   Phone:  (518) 474-3189
Fax:  (518) 486-3518
E-mail:  SPARCS@health.state.ny.us

SPARCS Data - Identifying Data Elements

Completed applications should be submitted to:

Executive Secretary
Data Protection Review Board (DPRB)
Bureau of Health Informatics
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Room 878
Albany, NY 12237
   Phone:  (518) 473-8144
Fax:  (518) 486-3518
E-mail:  dprb@health.state.ny.us