Project Summary

One of PCORI’s goals is to improve the methods that researchers use for patient-centered outcomes research. PCORI funds methods projects like this one to better understand and advance the use of research methods that improve the strength and quality of comparative effectiveness research.

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the project about?

Health insurance companies and healthcare providers, such as clinics and hospitals, collect a lot of health data. Researchers can use these data to learn about health problems and treatments, but they may need to combine data from many sources to do so. Researchers use unique identifiers, such as social security numbers, to combine data from different sources. Without these identifiers, researchers can still combine data, but the process is difficult and may result in errors. Errors in how data are linked can affect the accuracy of study results.

In this study, the research team is looking at standard and new methods for combining data without unique identifiers. The team is also analyzing data that have been combined. They are looking at how different analysis methods account for errors within the combined data set and affect study results.

How can this project help improve research methods?

The results of this study can help researchers choose methods for combining and analyzing data from different sources that have no unique identifiers.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is testing both standard and new methods for combining and analyzing data from different sources. For new methods, they are looking at two research questions:

  • Are there ways to predict where adult patients who had a traumatic brain injury will be living and getting care a year after they left the hospital and entered a skilled nursing or rehab facility?
  • What are the effects of getting meals delivered at home from Meals on Wheels programs on the healthcare needs of homebound adults?

The research team is creating guidelines to help researchers choose methods for linking and analyzing data from multiple sources when the data don’t have unique identifiers. They are also creating computer programs that include the analysis methods for other researchers to use.

Research methods at a glance

Design Elements Description
  • Develop new statistical methods that address the limitations of current approaches as applied to PCOR/CER studies.
  • Develop guidelines for choosing the most appropriate statistical methods to estimate causal and noncausal relationships with linked data sources.

Theoretical development, simulation studies, empirical analyses

Project Information

Roee Gutman, PhD, MS, BSc
Brown University School of Public Health
Improving CER/PCOR Methods for Analyzing Linked Data Sources in the Absence of Unique Identifiers

Key Dates

August 2018
September 2023

Study Registration Information


Award Type
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: January 20, 2023