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Use of Medical Insurance Claims Data for Occupational Health Research

Cullen, Mark R. MD; Vegso, Sally MS; Cantley, Linda MS; Galusha, Deron MS; Rabinowitz, Peter MD, MPH; Taiwo, Oyebode MD, MPH; Fiellin, Martha MPH; Wennberg, David MD; Iennaco, Joanne MS, RN; Slade, Martin D. MS; Sircar, Kanta PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2006 - Volume 48 - Issue 10 - p 1054-1061
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000241049.23093.a4
Original Articles

Objective: The objective of this study was to demonstrate that health claims data, widely available due to the unique nature of the U.S. healthcare system, can be linked to other relevant databases such as personnel files and exposure data maintained by large employers. These data offer great potential for occupational health research.

Methods: In this article, we describe the process for linking claims data to industrial hygiene exposure data and personnel files of a single large employer to conduct epidemiologic research.

Results: Our results demonstrate the ability to replicate previously published findings using commonly maintained data sets and illustrate methodological issues that may arise as newer hypotheses are tested in this way.

Conclusions: Health claims files offer potential for epidemiologic research in the United States, although the full extent and guidelines for successful application await further clarification through empiric research.

From the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program, Departments of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health (Dr Cullen, Ms Vegso, Ms Cantley, Mr Galusha, Dr Rabinowitz, Dr Taiwo, Ms Fiellin, Ms Iennaco, Mr Slade, Dr Sircar), Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; HealthDialog (Dr Wennberg), Portland, Maine; and the Division of Respiratory Disease Surveillance (Dr Sircar), National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Morgantown, West Virginia.

Supported by a grant from the Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and a contract with Alcoa Inc.

Address correspondence to: Mark R. Cullen, MD, 135 College St., Rm. 392, New Haven, CT 06510; E-mail:

©2006The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine