Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development (JRRD)

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Volume 47 Number 8, 2010
   Pages 679 — 688

Abstract —  Using VA data for research in persons with spinal cord injuries and disorders: Lessons from SCI QUERI

Bridget M. Smith, PhD;1-2* Charlesnika T. Evans, MPH, PhD;1-2 Philip Ullrich, PhD;3-4 Stephen Burns, MD;3-4 Marylou Guihan, PhD;1-2 Scott Miskevics, MS;1 Sherri L. LaVela, PhD, MPH, MBA;1-2 Suparna Rajan, PhD;3 Frances M. Weaver, PhD1-2

1Spinal Cord Injury Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (SCI QUERI) and Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Edward Hines Jr. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, Hines, IL; 2Institute for Healthcare Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; 3SCI QUERI, VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle, WA; 4Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Abstract — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides integrated services to more than 25,000 veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D). VA data offer great potential for providing insights into healthcare utilization and morbidity, and these capabilities are central to efforts to improve healthcare for veterans with SCI/D. The objective of this article is to introduce researchers to the use of VA data to examine questions related to SCI/D using examples from Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Quality Enhancement Research Initiative studies. Sources of VA data available to investigators interested in SCI/D-related research include national-level VA administrative and clinical databases and primary data (medical record review, patient surveys). Methods used to identify veterans with SCI/D include the Allocation Resource Center cohort, the Spinal Cord Dysfunction (SCD) Registry, and the VA inpatient SCI flag; only 33% of veterans were included in all three groups (n = 12,306). While neurological level of SCI was unknown for approximately a third of veterans (from SCD Registry data alone), the percent decreased to 13% when augmented with diagnostic codes. Primary data can be used to augment other missing SCI data and to provide more detailed information about complications commonly associated with SCI/D.

Key words: data quality, paraplegia, pressure ulcers, rehabilitation, respiratory, spinal cord injuries and disorders, spinal cord injury, tetraplegia, VA, veterans.


This article and any supplementary material should be cited as follows:
Smith BM, Evans CT, Ullrich P, Burns S, Guihan M, Miskevics S, LaVela SL, Rajan S, Weaver FM. Using VA data for research in persons with spinal cord injuries and disorders: Lessons from SCI QUERI. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2010;47(8):679-88.
DOI:10.1682/JRRD.2009.08.0117
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