EjSBS - The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences

The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences

Online ISSN: 2301-2218
European Publisher

A Framework to Assess Healthcare Data Quality


Assessing data quality is a fundamental task during the research process. Information derived from data of inadequate quality may lead to invalid conclusions and misinformed management decisions for healthcare organisations. To minimise such risk a data quality framework can be utilised to ensure suitability and to quality assure datasets. This current research involved a review of existing frameworks and the formation of a new framework which combines quality criteria derived from different research disciplines. The current framework is robust, it can effectively assess data quality across a range of criteria and supports researchers to formulate a decision on whether to use the dataset. Further development of the quality framework would include an emphasis on the interdependencies of quality criteria.

Keywords: Healthcare, healthcare organisations, data quality, DatQAM


Data quality assessment is a fundamental task when undertaking research. A wealth of healthcare data provided from the National Health Service is available and can be easily accessed and utilised for research. Even though health related datasets are obtained from authoritative sources, issues within the quality of data may be apparent. Data quality issues can lead to an array of errors within research findings including incorrect demographical information and exaggeration of disorder prevalence. Moreover, the consequences of decisions made from inaccurate results can be damaging to organisations within the healthcare sector (Goodchild, 1993).

It is therefore important to use a framework to assess the quality of data obtained from the data mining process. This will help determine whether it can be used to test hypotheses, and increase confidence of validity.

The motivation for this current research was to investigate data quality issues encountered for a research report undertaken by the NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust entitled ‘Up Skilling the Adult Mental Health Workforce in Psychological Practice Skills’. As researchers had access to a wealth of data from several sources, it was important to examine the data available to the research and what data quality criteria would be necessary to draw conclusions on its suitability. As many of the available datasets had not been collected with a specific research question, the selection quality and methods were not under control of the research and therefore, were difficult to validate (Sorensen, Sabroe & Olsen, 1996). From this, there was a need to construct a robust framework to assess the quality of data. This led to a review of existing frameworks and the formation of a new framework specific for this research.

Review of Quality Framework

The existing literature instigated that the criteria for a quality framework must be general, applicable across application domains and data types and clearly defined, Price & Shanks, (2004). Eppler (2001), put forward that quality frameworks should show interdependencies between different quality criteria, to allow researchers to become familiar with how data quality issues impact other criteria.

The Data Quality Assessment Methods and Tools (DatQAM) provides a systematic implementation of data quality assessment which includes a range of quality measures which considers the strengths of official statistics. It is concerned with user satisfaction concerning relevance, sampling and non-sampling errors, production dates concerning timeliness, availability of metadata and forms for dissemination, changes over time and geographical differences and coherence (Eurostat, 2007).

The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) developed by Statistics Canada (2010) includes a number of quality measures for assessing data quality including measures for timeliness, relevance, interpretability (completeness of metadata), accuracy (coefficient of variance, imputation rates), coherence and accessibility. These two data quality (DQ) frameworks are similar in the way that they consider measures for data quality and for the data quality criteria themselves. They are also widely used, an example of this is that the HSCIC uses the DatQAM for data quality assessments (HSCIC, 2013).

In order to build a framework which considers measures for DQ we can consider these two frameworks and how the criteria are measured within them in order to gain a comprehensive framework that can be applied to data that we use within our research. These measures have been adapted from the DatQAM and QAF frameworks in order to quantify our data quality assessments.

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) ‘quality criteria’ was utilised in order to categorise the quality measurements. The Data Quality Audit Tool (DQAT) is utilised by the WHO and Global Fund. After cross referencing it was decided that a ‘confidentiality’ criteria be added to the framework which was adapted from the DQAT (2008).

Data quality criteria often influence the execution of data cleansing methods on raw data (Muller & Freytag, 2005) Considering that the data that is used in a project such as this often comes from authoritative sources, it is likely that data cleansing methods have already been undertaken. As a consequence, a criteria was added to the current framework to assess whether data cleansing methods were already implemented.

The current framework highlights whether sufficient practice was carried out during data collection, these criteria were adapted from a Quality Category Information Framework by Price and Shanks (2004). The researchers favoured an integrated quality framework using intuitive, empirical and theoretical approaches to ascertain rigour and scope. Aspects of Price and Shanks (2004) framework criteria regarded the objectivity of the dataset, so whether the dataset is completely independent of user or use. The current research implements this measure, to prompt the researcher to examine objectivity.

Previous work by Eppler (2001) Price and Shanks (2004) outlines accessibility criteria. For example, prompting users to examine whether access to the data needs to be authorised, and question whether the dataset has been protected from bias and cannot be misused. The current research supports the notion of covering a broad range of research and data management processes to ensure efficient practice.

Final Data Quality Framework

The current framework aims to highlight good data management practice and data issues and inaccuracies. The user will be prompted to record any possible resolutions for data inaccuracies, for example, requesting missing or incomplete data. A validity criteria has also been added so that contradictions between datasets from different sources are highlighted. Data sets with negative reports cannot pass the validation criteria however may not fail if engagement with researchers is evident and/or the data is subject to change or indeed inaccuracies have been corrected. The table below presents the criteria, measurements and definitions of the current quality framework (see table 1).

Table 1 - Final Data Quality Framework with Definitions
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Researchers wishing to use the current framework will benefit from the range of data quality criteria to assess suitability of datasets for specific research questions. The criteria and measures were adapted from an array of multidiscipline sources, the reason for this being to ensure the framework is robust and will effectively assist researchers. Another benefit of the current framework is that it is not sequential in nature. We anticipate the framework is shared across researchers and colleagues so individuals are able to gain a better understanding of their data collectively. The distribution of completed frameworks also promotes quality assurance through inter-observer reliability.

A further modification of the current framework would be to include a stronger emphasis on the interdependencies of quality criteria (Price & Shanks, 2004; Singh & Singh, 2010), as inter- dependencies may affect the analytical methods used in evaluation.

The testing phase of this quality framework (see appendix 1) concluded it is suitable for analysing and assessing datasets, and it will prompt researchers to formulate decisions on whether the dataset should be used in their research and with what level of confidence. If possible, this decision could be communicated back to the data source to raise issues and initiate solutions.


The author(s) declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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About this article

Published online: 01.05.2015
Pages: 92-98
Publisher: Future Academy
In: Volume 13, Issue 2
DOI: 10.15405/ejsbs.156
Online ISSN: 2301-2218
Article Type: Original Research
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