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Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database: administrative health care database as study object in bibliometrics


The trend to use administrative health care databases as research material is increasing but not well explored. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD), one of the largest administrative health care databases around the world, has been used widely in academic studies. This study analyzed 383 NHIRD studies published between 2000 and 2009 to quantify the effects on overall growth, scholar response, and spread of the study fields. The NHIRD studies expanded rapidly in both quantity and quality since the first study was published in 2000. Researchers usually collaborated to share knowledge, which was crucial to process the NHIRD data. However, once the fundamental problem had been overcome, success to get published became more reproducible. NHIRD studies were also published diversely in a growing number of journals. Both general health and clinical science studies benefited from NHIRD. In conclusion, this new research material widely promotes scientific production in a greater magnitude. The experience of Taiwan’s NHIRD should encourage national- or institutional-level data holders to consider re-using their administrative databases for academic purposes.

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  1. For patients in a chronic and stable disease condition in Taiwan, one is eligible to refill his or her medication in any contracted pharmacy without seeing a doctor again.

  2. The NLM has assigned most of MEDLINE journals with one or more subject terms to describe journals’ overall scopes. The subject terms are all valid MeSH terms and followed the MeSH tree structure ontology. The MeSH tree structure ontology is a hierarchical semantic tree and makes it possible to reorganize subject MeSH terms into higher conceptual levels.

  3. General form of Lotka’s law is R(n) = C/n a, where R(n) is the number of authors that produce n studies, C is a constant characteristic of the research field, and a is called “Lotka’s exponent” ranges approximately from value of 2–4 (Hayes 2000).


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The authors thank two anonymous reviewers who generously contributed their valuable view points and helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Yu-Chun Chen.

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Chen, YC., Yeh, HY., Wu, JC. et al. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database: administrative health care database as study object in bibliometrics. Scientometrics 86, 365–380 (2011).

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  • Administrative health care database
  • National Health Insurance Research Database
  • Bibliometric analysis
  • Knowledge growth