SEER-Medicare: Overview of the Process for Obtaining Data
The SEER-Medicare data are available to outside investigators for research purposes.
Although personal identifiers for all patient and medical care providers have been removed
from the SEER-Medicare data, there remains the remote risk of re-identification (given the
large amount of data available). In light of the sensitive nature of the data, maintaining
patient and provider confidentiality is a primary concern of NCI, SEER, and Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services. Therefore, the SEER-Medicare data are not public use data
files. Investigators are required to obtain approval for specific research questions in order to obtain the data. The
purpose of the approval process is not to critique the methodology or merits of proposed
projects, but to ensure the confidentiality of the patients and providers in SEER areas.
NCI will work with investigators requesting data files to balance their research needs
with those of the individuals and institutions included in the data.
Please note that investigators may not request the entire data set.
For reasons of confidentiality, selected variables are not routinely released on the
SEER-Medicare files. These variables include the patient's Census tract and ZIP code, as
well as the ZIP code for physicians and hospitals. Please review the Privacy and Confidentiality Issues section for more
information on these variables.
Once a data request has been approved and all appropriate documents are on file, IMS
(NCI's programming contractor) will provide an invoice to the investigator to cover the
costs of creating the requested data files (see Cost of Acquiring
SEER-Medicare Data). In accordance with an NCI-IMS contractual agreement, IMS will
begin processing data requests upon receipt of payment. In order to ensure the security
of the patient's information during transition of files, the data files will be encrypted
using WinZip (256bit AES encryption) and password-protected. The data files will also be
compressed using the GZIP compression utility. A program will be made available to unzip
the files onto the user's PC in the directory that the user specifies. The PC must be
equipped with Windows NT, Windows 95 or later. GUNZIP is necessary to unzip the files if
using a UNIX or Linux machine.