Operations Guide


TABLE OF CONTENTS

BACKGROUND/OVERVIEW
OBJECTIVES
SPARCS MANAGEMENT

SPARCS DATA SOURCES

DATA SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS
DATA DICTIONARY DESCRIPTION
SPARCS-837 WINDOWS APPLICATION
SUBMITTING DATA VIA HEALTH PROVIDER NETWORK

PROCESSING SPARCS DATA
DATA SUBMISSION
KEY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION
PROCESSING STEPS

FILE MAINTENANCE REPORTS
FILE MAINTENANCE REPORTS AND DATA
DISTRIBUTION INFORMATION
SPARCS DATA QUALITY
SPARCS BULLETIN

OUTPUT USER FILES
STANDARD SPARCS OUTPUT FILES

REQUEST PROCESSING
SPARCS ANNUAL REPORT
OBTAINING SPARCS DATA

BACKGROUND/OVERVIEW

The Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS) is a comprehensive data reporting system established in 1979 as a result of cooperation between the health care industry and government. Initially created to collect information on discharges from hospitals, SPARCS currently collects patient level detail on patient characteristics, diagnoses and treatments, services, and charges for every hospital discharge, ambulatory surgery patient, and emergency department admission in New York State.

The enabling legislation and regulations for SPARCS are located under Section 28.16 of the Public Health Law (PHL), Section 400.18 of Title 10 (Health) of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules, and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR).

In April 1983 and June 1985, the State Hospital Review and Planning Council adopted additional regulations regarding the reporting of ambulatory surgery data to the New York State Department of Health. Additional specifications for ambulatory surgery appear in Section 755.1 and Section 755.10.

The regulations require that inpatient data be submitted by all Article 28 facilities certified for inpatient and that outpatient data be submitted by all hospital-based ambulatory surgery services and all other facilities providing ambulatory surgery services. Data is to be submitted according to a designated format and schedule.

In April 1993, an ad hoc task force released a new Universal Data Set (UDS) Specification, which includes reporting codes for use with the UB-92 paper form and a new electronic format. The resulting system streamlines multiple data submission formats into a single format, removing redundant reporting requirements for hospitals and other health care facilities. The valid codes, electronic format, and acceptable data submission media are explained fully in the SPARCS Data Dictionary. The data submitted is processed and stored in the SPARCS database, which is available to the health care industry according to uses prescribed by regulation. The current SPARCS format, which represents a subset of the fields within the complete UDS specification, has been required for submitting records to SPARCS since 1994 discharges.

Recognizing the need for emergency department data, the New York State Legislature passed, and Governor Pataki signed, legislation in September 2001 mandating the collection of emergency department data through SPARCS beginning September 2003. Representatives of a broad array of Department of Health programs worked together to identify a core set of data elements that satisfy public health and health services administration information needs.

SPARCS continues to be a major management tool assisting hospitals, agencies, and health care organizations with decision making regarding financial planning and monitoring of inpatient and ambulatory surgery services and costs. In an effort to reflect what is needed by the users of this data, modifications of the required data elements and their formats occur periodically. These modifications are a direct result of the input by users of this data.

In 2004, SPARCS was placed within the Bureau of Biometrics and Health Statistics (BBHS) within the Information Systems and Health Statistics Group (ISHSG) located in the NYSDOH Division of Administration.

In order to continue to progress with the current health care industry data standards, it was necessary for SPARCS to adjust for changes in the national billing formats. The new uniform bill (UB-04) requires the National Provider ID for all providers as well as other modifications. Effective January 1, 2008 SPARCS requires the X12-837 format of the uniform bill, instead of the UDS Version 5/6 of the older uniform bill (UB92).

SPARCS data users will find a vast array of information concerning SPARCS data contained within our site. Included in this information are specifics on the data content, format, and obtaining access. Users should note the distinction between the X12-837 Input Data Dictionary and the Output Data Dictionaries. The X12-837 Input Data Dictionary is of interest to data providers. The Output Data Dictionaries are of interest to data users.

OBJECTIVES

The purpose of this guide is to help the user understand the SPARCS system. The publication will describe how data is acquired, how it is processed, and how it can be accessed. Knowledge of SPARCS operations will help SPARCS staff better serve the needs of our many users. This guide describes how data is added to the master file, how errors are flagged, and what data is available. The content and availability of file maintenance reports and output user files are also provided.

SPARCS MANAGEMENT

The responsibility for protecting the confidentiality and privacy of data related to patient care resides with the Commissioner of Health. The responsibility for tracking and monitoring the technical functioning of SPARCS directly resides with the SPARCS Administrative and Programming Units. SPARCS staff are available to assist with every phase of the SPARCS data system.

SPARCS DATA SOURCES

The SPARCS data sources are inpatient, and outpatient (Ambulatory Surgery - AS and Emergency Department - ED) information. All Article 28 Facilities in New York State and hospital based and free-standing ambulatory surgery facilities are required to submit data to SPARCS. Inpatient and outpatient data is submitted to SPARCS in X12-837 formatted files.

DATA SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

Since 1991 all hospitals have been required to fulfill their SPARCS data reporting responsibility through electronic submission.

The inpatient submission requirements are as follows:

  • 95% of the facility's SPARCS data must be submitted 60 days following the month of patient discharge.
  • 100% of a facility's SPARCS data is due 180 days following the end of the facility's fiscal year.

The outpatient (AS, ED) submission requirements are as follows:

  • SPARCS outpatient data is required to be submitted from the effective date of final certification and on a calendar quarterly basis thereafter.
  • Facilities that do not submit data or corrected data within 30 days of receipt of the Department's error report concerning such data may not be reimbursed under Subpart 86.1-44 of this Title (Title 10) until such compliance is certified by the Commissioner or his designee.

In order to fulfill New York State regulations, data elements are required to be submitted to SPARCS in a specified format. SPARCS requires the submission of patient data electronically. Data must be submitted to SPARCS in X12-837 formatted files. Inpatient and outpatient data must be submitted on separate submissions.

As changes in SPARCS submission requirements occur they are published in the SPARCS Bulletin, so that facilities can alter their internal systems or notify their vendor of the needed changes. These changes are also distributed to subscribers of the SPARCS-L listserv and those on the Electronic Distribution list, described in the DISTRIBUTION INFORMATION section of this guide.

DATA DICTIONARY DESCRIPTION

The SPARCS X12-837 Input Data Dictionary further details the form and content for each required data element.

  • DATA ELEMENT DESCRIPTIONS The required data elements are named and defined. The data dictionary identifies the required elements, and the specific format/length.
  • CODES AND VALUES Defines the specific values and codes for each data element in order to be accepted by SPARCS.
  • EDIT APPLICATIONS Describe a series of edits that each input record must undergo in order for the data element to be accepted by SPARCS.

SPARCS-837 WINDOWS APPLICATION

SPARCS-837 is a Windows application developed to assist providers with the creation, editing, translation and submission of their SPARCS inpatient and outpatient data. Data in UDS version 5, UDS version 6 or ASC X12N-837 format can be imported, and modified. New records can also be created from "scratch" and modified using the input screens. Data can then be selected based on export criteria and exported in ASC X12N-837 format. The exported files can then be uploaded using the SPARCS upload application on the Health Provider Network (HPN). There are also tools to validate and edit the imported data, as well as a tool to directly translate data from UDS Version5/6 to X12-837.

Features Include:

  • Import Version 5/6 UB-92 or ASC X12N-837 Formatted Files
  • Export ASC X12N-837 Formatted Claims
  • Maintain Facility, Subscriber, Patient and Claim Level Information
  • Built-in Edits for Required Elements
  • Validate Data for Individual Subscribers, Patients and Claims
  • Batch Edit Claims
  • Support for Submission and Retrieval of SPARCS AMI Elements
  • Translation from UDS Version 5/6 to ASC X12N-837
  • Browse by Facility, Subscriber, Patient or Claim

Visit the SPARCS Public Web site for additional information and details on downloading the SPARCS-837 Software and User Guide: http://www.nyhealth.gov/statistics/sparcs/x12-837/

SUBMITTING DATA VIA HEALTH PROVIDER NETWORK

SPARCS Data and Report System

The SPARCS Data and Report System provides an efficient and secure data transmission option using the powerful Internet Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption technology. This upload process can be used to transmit X12-837 formatted claims to SPARCS. For specific edit and coding information please refer to the SPARCS X12-837 Input Data Dictionary.

The functionality of this option requires a 128-bit domestic version of a browser, which is available from all major developers of browser software. You can determine if your browser is a 128-bit domestic version by clicking on the pull down menu "Help - About...". The following details will tell you if the browser satisfies this requirement:

  • NETSCAPE This version supports U.S. security with RSA Public Key Cryptography, MD2, MD5, RC2-CBC, RC4, DES-CBC, DES-EDE3-CBC.
  • INTERNET EXPLORER Cipher Strength: 128 bit.

The Department of Health's secured Web site is known as the Health Provider Network (HPN). The HPN is maintained by the Bureau of HEALTHCOM Network Systems Management within the Department of Health. It protects the confidentiality of submitted data by requiring that each organization adheres to the New York State Department of Health's data security standards.

Applications for an HPN account are available from the HPN Coordinator at each facility, the SPARCS Administrative Unit by e-mail at sparcs@health.state.ny.us or by calling (518) 473-8144, or the DOH Help Desk at (800) 638-3808. When you receive this information, please read it carefully as it describes the Department of Health's security policy for using the HPN. Forms must be returned to SPARCS, signed and notarized.

PROCESSING SPARCS DATA

The SPARCS data system is a dynamic system; which means data files are never frozen or static. A facility may submit and update data for any point in time from 1982 through the present. Since the volume of activity is greater on files less than three years old, older files are updated when the volume of activity is at least 1000 records or following a special request from a facility or data requestor. All files are updated at least once a year.

SPARCS data processing and editing creates several management reports and files designed to assist facilities to maintain accurate and complete data. Processed data is either placed on the master files or returned to the facility for correction. It is the hospital's responsibility to assist in the maintenance of complete and accurate data by correcting and updating their submissions.

It is the responsibility of the SPARCS staff to oversee all data processing functions and to follow up on any SPARCS submission discrepancies that may occur.

DATA SUBMISSION

Data can be uploaded to SPARCS via the Health Provider Network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. An electronic confirmation, which includes the submission mode (TEST or PROD), is received within a few minutes. Data is routed to the mainframe computer for processing Monday through Friday, 7:30AM - 5:30PM. Submission results (Edit Report and Error file, if applicable) are usually available on the Health Provider Network Monday through Friday, 7:30AM - 5:30PM, within 2 hours of the time of data submission.

KEY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION

The information used to distinguish one record from another for master file updates is called the key identifying information. If the same key elements are found in two records, the records are considered to represent the same claim and are considered to be duplicates. This is critically important in referencing a record for UPDATING and/or DELETING.

The SPARCS keys are different for the types of data sets submitted to the Department:

The Inpatient key data elements are:

  • Permanent Facility Identifier (PFI)
  • Patient Control Number
  • Medical Record Number
  • Statement-Covers-Period-From Date
  • Statement-Covers-Period-Through Date (Discharge Date)

The Outpatient (Ambulatory Surgery and Emergency Department) key data elements are:

  • Permanent Facility Identifier (PFI)
  • Patient Control Number
  • Medical Record Number
  • Statement-Covers-Period-From Date
  • Statement-Covers-Period-Through Date (Discharge Date)
  • Discharge Hour

If two or more records on the same submission have the same PATIENT CONTROL NUMBER and TYPE OF BILL, the first record is processed by the SPARCS system. Subsequent records are marked as submission time duplicates.

PROCESSING STEPS

Log Number

Once the data is received, it is given a log number for tracking purposes. The log number is a computer-assigned sequential number that identifies when the submission was received by SPARCS. Referencing a log number will assist a facility to expeditiously track its data submission.

Record Editing

The SPARCS data editing process occurs 7:30AM - 5:30PM, Monday through Friday. The data undergoes an edit process using edits specified in the SPARCS X12-837 Input Data Dictionary. The editing process occurs in two phases:

Phase 1: Syntactical Edits

If the syntactical edits mentioned above fail the edits, the entire submission is immediately rejected without further processing. Similarly, if either the PFI or SPARCS Collector Code is missing or invalid, the entire submission is rejected.

Phase 2: Detailed Edits

If the patient record passes the syntactical edits, the system will commence with the detailed edits. Unlike the syntactical edits, which would cause the total submission to fail, the failure of one or more of the detailed edits will only cause a specific record to fail. Other records on the same submission that did not have errors would pass the edit process. The detailed edit process creates the following work files, with a log number extension:

  • TINFO Contains records exactly as they were received by SPARCS.
  • EDIT Contains each claim that passed SPARCS edits as specified in the SPARCS X12-837 Input Data Dictionary and stored in a monthly edit file, as follows:
    • Records that successfully pass the edits are stored on disk until the end of the month. At that time records are merged into the Master File, as described in the update process below.
    • All Submissions generate a multi-part edit report that is returned to the facility via the HPN. This report comprises the following:
      • The Submission Analysis Report lists the error value(s) for each record that fails the edits
      • The Error Summary Report lists the number of errors for each edit type.
      • The two part Summary Report displays, by Type of Bill, the number of records submitted, rejected, and accepted. If all records pass the edits, only this two-part Summary Report is returned.
  • ERROR Each record that fails the SPARCS edits is stored in this file by Permanent Facility Identifier (PFI) and Log Number.

    Error records are returned with the electronic edit report via the HPN.

The Edit Report and Error File (if there are errors, will be available under the Submission Results Section of the SPARCS Data and Report System on the HPN.

  • REPORT Edit Reports are stored in a file that can be accessed to retrieve any previous Edit Report by Log Number. Those with an HPN account and access to the SPARCS Data and Report System can request copies of Edit Reports for their facility

Master File Updates

The monthly update process for both inpatient and outpatient systems begins on the first working day of each month. The first step merges the individual work files since the last merge and stores them onto the following cumulative files for storage and retrieval:

  • TINFO The monthly TINFO files are merged into a cumulative file.
  • EDIT The monthly edit files are analyzed for duplicates. A duplicate is determined by the presence of the same key identifying information: i.e. for inpatient - PFI, Patient Control Number, Medical Record Number, Statement-Covers-Period-From Date, and Statement-Covers-Period-Through Date (Discharge Date); for outpatient - PFI, Patient Control Number, Medical Record Number, Statement-Covers-Period-From Date, Statement-Covers-Period-Through Date (Discharge Date), and Discharge Hour. These data elements are used to formulate the "key identifying information". During the monthly update process, newly submitted records are compared to the Master File data set using the key information and the "type of bill". Depending on the "type of bill", the record is updated accordingly. If the record has previously been loaded onto the Master File and the "type of bill" is for a new submission" (third digit is "1") then the record is recorded as a "duplicate transaction". If the key information on the new record does not match key information on any existing record in the Master File then the record is updated to the Master file.
  • ERROR Monthly error records are merged into a cumulative error file. Errors can be retrieved by referencing the Permanent Facility Identifier (PFI) and/or log numbers.
  • REPORT Cumulative records of all edit reports are merged into a cumulative report file. The cumulative file makes it possible to retrieve an edit report electronically of any data submission by log number. This process enables facilities to obtain copies of edit reports as needed.

The second step of the monthly update process uses the current monthly EDIT transaction file to update the SPARCS master files. All records with a given discharge year are extracted from the monthly EDIT file and used to update the master file for that given year. These transaction records are analyzed for duplicates (Note the criteria for defining duplicates is described above). The non-duplicate transaction records are used to update the master file depending on the key data and the Type of Bill coded. If the transaction record is coded as an ADDITION/NEW CLAIM, and the match keys listed above are not the same as that of another record, the record gets added to the master file. If a record is coded as an ADDITION and the key data is the same as an existing record on the master file then the record is placed in the exception file.

If a record is coded as a REPLACEMENT or DELETION, there must be a record on the master file with the same key data. If a REPLACEMENT or DELETION can be matched using the match keys specified above with a record on the master file, the update takes place. REPLACEMENTS and DELETIONS that cannot be matched with an existing record on the master file are placed on the exception file.

The type of transaction is determined by the third digit of the Type of Bill data element: xx1 - New Claim, xx7 - Replacement Claim, and xx8 - Deletion Claim.

Our yearly master files are maintained on magnetic cartridges. This requires that we have a monthly update cycle to post data onto our master files. All submissions received in a given month are merged onto the master file on the first working day of the following month for recent data years. Updates for older years are done less frequently, when a set number of claims have been received for a particular year.

All transactions are processed chronologically with the same logical rules that would drive a real-time system even though our system remains cartridge-based. There are no restrictions as to when CORRECTION and DELETION records can be submitted. The following files are created by this step:

  • EXCEPTION SUMMARY The exception file summary report provides a count of each type of error and the number of patient records with those errors, i.e. DUPLICATE Transactions, ADDITION Duplicates, REPLACEMENTS for which there is no matching record, and DELETIONS with no matching record.
  • EXCEPTION DETAIL The exception file detail report provides a listing of each record by Patient Control Number, Statement Covers-Period-Through Date (Discharge Date), Exception Error, Log Number, and Date Processed. This report enables the data Submitter to examine the errors to determine what further action is required. For example, an ADDITION duplicate, when meant as a REPLACEMENT, should have the type of bill changed and the data resubmitted. It is also possible that an ADDITION duplicate is really just a duplicate, and no further action is required.
  • MASTER The SPARCS Master File is generated from the EDIT file. This file is used to respond to the various requesters for health care data. The inpatient Master file is used to create the RATE FILE EXTRACT, which is used to generate hospital rates, and the CASEMIX EXTRACT, which is used to generate the CASEMIX Master file.

Data accumulated on any of the above mentioned files (other than the RATE FILE EXTRACT and CASEMIX EXTRACT) is available to the facilities upon request for maintaining, correcting, or utilizing the SPARCS database.

Error Correction Process

Edit reports and error records are sent back electronically to appropriate directories on the secured HPN server maintained by the Department of Health. These files can be accessed via "Submission Results" within the HPN SPARCS Data and Reports System Application. Error records can easily be downloaded and corrected for resubmission. By referring to the edit report, the error can be identified for correction.

If the edit report or the error file is lost or unreadable, the facility representative can log onto the HPN to obtain a duplicate edit report or error file by using the Data/Report Request option within the HPN PARCS Data and Reports System Application. Those without an HPN account should contact SPARCS, via email at sparcs@health.state.ny.us or by phone at (518) 473-8144, for an application.

FILE MAINTENANCE REPORTS

The various uses of SPARCS data require that the data must be complete and accurate. SPARCS uses several tools to assist facility data submitters and reviewers to assure that their data is complete and accurate. All of the various data maintenance tools used by SPARCS can be used by facilities as well as other interested parties, to assess the quality of SPARCS data at any given point in time.

FILE MAINTENANCE REPORTS AND DATA

File Maintenance Reports are designed to promote quality data by providing hospitals with current information regarding their SPARCS data submissions. Data quality issues of completeness and accuracy are addressed through periodic reviews of a facility's submissions and by comparing SPARCS data with other Department of Health databases.

The reports and files listed below are available at no charge to all SPARCS data submitters in the State of New York.

Edit Report

These reports detail the edit results for data submitted to SPARCS.

The detailed edit report and the transaction summary report are returned to the appropriate directory maintained on the secured HPN server.

SPARCS Audit Reports

The Audit Report provides total and month by month counts of SPARCS records on the master file. The Last Update Date, also provided on the report, identifies the date on which data for that year was last processed for the particular hospital.

Statewide audit reports for current years are available within the Audit and Submission History Reports section of our Web site.

Individual Audit Reports are distributed monthly to all facilities via the Health Provider Network (HPN). In addition, reports for prior years' data can be requested by using the Data/Report Request option within the HPN SPARCS Data and Report System.

Based on the counts generated for the Audit Report, letters are sent to facilities currently out of compliance with SPARCS submission regulations. SPARCS Administrative staff work with each facility receiving a letter to provide assistance to bring their submissions into compliance. Facilities are usually asked to provide a letter explaining why their data submissions are in arrears and when they project their submissions will be in compliance with regulations.

Correspondence related to data submission problems may be forwarded to the Bureau of Hospital Reimbursement, as supporting evidence of a facility's good faith intentions to comply with submission regulations. If a facility is more than six months delinquent, copies of delinquency notices are forwarded to the Bureau of Hospital Reimbursement.

Cumulative monthly totals of SPARCS submissions for any data year are available electronically for any SPARCS user with an HPN account and access to the SPARCS Data and Report System. Assistance in obtaining an HPN account is available by contacting SPARCS.

SPARCS Exception Reports

The Exception Reports are generated each month as part of the monthly master file update process. Summary and Detail reports are created. Facilities are notified of any error conditions resulting from ADD, CHANGE, or DELETE transactions on these reports. Since the Exception Detail reports may contain confidential identifying data, they are only accessible via the HPN.

SPARCS Exception Reports are distributed monthly to all hospitals through HPN.

Update Summary and Exception reports are available electronically for any SPARCS user with an HPN account and access to the SPARCS Data and Report System. Assistance in obtaining an HPN account is available by contacting SPARCS.

Health Facilities Own Data File (HOD)

Health Facilities Own Data files are distinct from the regular output files available to requesters upon approval by the Data Protection Review Board (DPRB). Health Facilities Own Data files can only be requested by a facility for its own data by using the Data/Report Request Option within the SPARCS Data and Report System on the HPN.

A HOD request creates an electronic copy of a facility's SPARCS data. The file will be sent to the Submission Results directory of an HPN account. The file that is provided to the facility contains all the information maintained on the Department of Health master file.

Those with HPN accounts may electronically submit an HOD Request by using the Data/Report Request option within the HPN SPARCS Data and Report System.

The electronic form used to generate this file has the following options:

  • System Type: Inpatient or Outpatient
  • Year: 1982 thru 2007 (Note: Inpatient discharges prior to 1994 not resident on the Inpatient Master File because of mismatched UBF or DDA records or missing interim bills reside on the UDS Inpatient Incomplete File.)
  • Beginning and Ending Months: January thru December

The file may be requested in the following formats at this time:

  • Version 5 or 6 format

    NOTE: The UDS Version 5/6 format can be translated to X12 using the SPARCS-837 Windows Application.
  • Edited output format, as described in the Output Data Dictionaries. In addition to the edited fields, calculated fields are included. The inpatient and outpatient output formats are different.

SPARCS History Report

The SPARCS History Report provides a detailed accounting of transactions submitted to the Department updating the SPARCS master files. The purpose of this report is to assist facilities in the maintenance of their SPARCS data. The History report is subdivided into five (5) sections:

  1. A tally of the status of the records within log number and discharge month.
  2. A tally of the status of the records within discharge month and log number.
  3. All TRANSACTION records except those deleted by any means from the SPARCS master file.
  4. All UNRESOLVED FAILED EDIT records from within list number one (1) above.
  5. All UNRESOLVED MERGE TRANSACTION EXCEPTIONS from within list number one (1) above.

A summary version of the Audit and Submission History Reports are available on our Web site. History Reports can be requested by a facility for its Health Facilities Own Data (HOD) by using the Data/Report Request Option within the SPARCS Data and Report System on the HPN.

Customized Reports

If additional information is necessary to determine the nature or extent of a data problem, customized reports can be requested by contacting the SPARCS Administrative Unit.

DISTRIBUTION INFORMATION

Electronic Distribution

SPARCS maintains an Electronic Distribution list for communicating important information about SPARCS via e-mail. Anyone wishing to be placed on that distribution list should contact the SPARCS Administrative Unit at (518) 473-8144 or by e-mail at sparcs@health.state.ny.us. Data or associated reports are electronically transmitted only to individuals with approved HPN accounts.

A listserv, SPARCS-L, is also available for users to discuss issues related to SPARCS. Information on how to subscribe to the listserv is available within the LISTSERV section of our Web site.

Surface Distribution

Addresses contained in the SPARCS Hospital Profile are used to distribute SPARCS materials. The automated profile list identifies the person responsible for submitting inpatient and outpatient data by a 3-digit collector number assigned by the SPARCS Administrative Unit.

It is the responsibility of the facilities to inform SPARCS of any changes in their collector and facility contacts to ensure that SPARCS correspondence is distributed appropriately.

SPARCS DATA QUALITY

SPARCS Administrative staff, working with the Bureau of Biometrics' Data Quality Unit, review the quality and completeness of data reported by each hospital. When a review of a facility's data indicates the possibility of a significant data problem, the facility is contacted and a copy of the findings is provided to the facility for their review and confirmation. Very often an analysis might compare SPARCS information with information reported on a separate document such as the Institutional Cost Report (ICR). Such a comparison might reveal differences that suggest the need for further investigation. The maintenance of quality data is critical to the use of SPARCS data for reimbursement purposes as well as to the growing use of data for health care research.

SPARCS BULLETIN

The SPARCS Bulletin, an electronic newsletter, is published periodically, as needs dictate, and currently is sent to individuals on the Electronic Distribution List and subscribers to the SPARCS-L listserv. Information Bulletins are available on the our Web site. Articles published in the Bulletin focus on the status of SPARCS submissions, special features concerning various aspects of SPARCS operations, tips on electronic data submissions, new or revised edits, etc. Anyone may submit suggestions for articles.

OUTPUT USER FILES

SPARCS data available to output users is categorized in two major ways:

  • Identifying data pertains to a particular individual's facility stay, which, if disclosed, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, as stipulated in Department regulations, Title 10, NYCRR 400.18.
  • Non-Identifying data does not contain elements that are deemed as able to identify a specific individual and will not cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

STANDARD SPARCS OUTPUT FILES

Output files have been created for the SPARCS inpatient and outpatient data streams consisting of edited data maintained on the master file in addition to several calculated fields that have been added to enhance the value of the information to various users.

Inpatient Output File

The SPARCS Inpatient Output File contains the inpatient information received from the facility, as well as certain calculated data elements such as Age, Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs), Major Diagnostic Categories (MDCs), and Calculated Lengths of Stay. Please refer to the SPARCS Inpatient Output Data Dictionary for details.

Outpatient Output File

The SPARCS Outpatient (AS, ED) Output File contains the outpatient information received from the facility, as well as certain calculated data elements such as Age. Please refer to the SPARCS Outpatient Output Data Dictionary for details.

REQUEST PROCESSING

SPARCS data is made available for health care research in a number of different formats and configurations, including the SPARCS Annual Report and customized reports.

SPARCS ANNUAL REPORT

SPARCS discharge data is summarized in statistical tables on an annual calendar year basis. These tables are grouped into the following major areas: Statewide, County, and Hospital. Some of the specific data categories included in these tables are Age, Sex, Expected Principal Source of Reimbursement, Service Category, Major Diagnostic Category, and Disposition of Patient. The tables are available within the Annual Reports section of our Web site.

Selected tables from the Annual Report can be made available on a hospital specific basis upon request to the New York State Department of Health's Bureau of Biometrics. Slight variations on any of the existing tables can be requested. A fee may be associated with special requests depending on the amount of time required to generate them.

OBTAINING SPARCS DATA

The Bureau of Biometrics and Health Statistics (BBHS) is responsible for receiving and processing identifying and non-identifying requests for SPARCS data. Detailed instructions and an application form to request SPARCS data are available within the Obtaining SPARCS Data section of our Web site.