Provider- and claims-focused administrative databases are powerful tools for conducting health services research, and these studies often have good generalizability owing to diversity of hospitals from which samples are derived. In this research methods article, we describe administrative data and how available provider- and claims-focused administrative databases can be used to conduct health services research. We describe common observational study designs using administrative data and provide real-world examples. We highlight the strengths and weaknesses of studies conducted using administrative data and describe methodological considerations to reduce bias and improve the rigor of observational studies using administrative data. Finally, we provide guidance on the types of study questions suitable for observational study designs using administrative data.

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