One of the main purposes of Epidemiology is to provide information to steer health system policies. In recent years the availability of information technology determined the spring out of large administrative electronic databases, diseases registries, and others health databases. In order to estimate incidence, prevalence, and mortality measures and to determine other epidemiological indicators for health problems, the linkage of records from multiple databases could yield reliable information. Unfortunately, the structures of these databases are very different, also due to their different purposes; moreover, a high heterogeneity among health regional services has already been shown.
The Italian Society of Medical Statistic and Clinical Epidemiology’s Working Group on Observational Studies, aims at evaluating methodological issues related to the use of administrative databases in epidemiology. The ARCHES project was proposed to face, discuss and propose how to solve the above-mentioned problems.
The ARCHES project is aimed at defining procedures for data management and analysis of existing electronically recorded health data, in order to conduct rigorous epidemiological studies, providing accurate estimates of health indicators that are the starting point for health needs monitoring and health services effectiveness analysis. The specific objectives of this research are:
- to describe the regional distribution of all the population-based health electronic databases in Italy, their structure, purpose, year of initiation, target population, computer software technology, and administrative management. This census can give the map of available and useful databases for epidemiological studies
- to investigate the general legal problems and the consequences related to the use of sensitive data, considering National and European laws and norms regulating the use of electronic health databases in epidemiological studies
- to organise a Consensus Conference endorsing validated guidelines for databases management and epidemiological use