THIN Database Description Background

The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database includes the general practice electronic medical records for a sample of patients in the UK. Each patient in UK is registered with a general practitioner (GP) near their home and the GP determines if the patients can be treated in primary, or be referred to secondary care. Thus each patient has a longitudinal electronic medical record maintained by the GP. Following a referral by the GP to secondary care, the GP receives a summary of any diagnoses and required medical care. Because of this continuity of care, this medical system is especially useful for conducting long-term longitudinal observational studies.

As of November 2009, the THIN database contains the health records, from 464 practices around UK who use Vision software. The Vision software is an electronic medical record computer system used to record the details of each consultation, which may include problem heading, prescribed treatment, referral, tests and results. All medical conditions are recorded using Read Codes and lifestyle data (such as smoking) are also available. Some lifestyle data, such as diet and exercise, are limited. There are over 7.5 million patient records with acceptable recorded data, of which over 3 million are active patients. The population in THIN is representative of the national population in terms of age, gender, leading diagnoses and treatments. This consultation and prescribing characteristics for the THIN practices are similar to the national GP characteristics.

In addition to the main consultation being recorded, most patients in THIN Data are linked to postcode-level area-based socioeconomic, ethnicity and environmental indices. The data are based on the patient's postcode so that variables at ward level are available. This information has been collected for THIN without compromising patient confidentiality in any way.

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