Data collection

Ideally, a basic data set should be common to all intensive care units nationally to allow meaningful comparisons to be made. This requires the data set to be detailed enough to answer questions posed but not so detailed that collection becomes unsustainable. Resources must be provided in terms of computer databases and staff to collect and analyse data. Those collecting the data should be provided with regular summary reviews to ensure that enthusiasm continues, and quality control is maintained. Methods of data entry should consider the time involved and the fact that most of those collecting data are not keyboard experts. Typographical mistakes destroy the value of collected data such that error trapping and data validation must form part of the housekeeping in any database used. Some audit topics require data collection that is not part of the basic data set. Collecting appropriate data requires clarity in setting the question to be answered and care in choosing data items that will truly answer the question.

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