Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of common questions and answers. If you can't find an answer to your question here, contact the AHA Resource Center at for help.

Q. How does the AHA define a hospital?

An institution is considered a hospital by the American Hospital Association if it is licensed as general or specialty hospital by the appropriate state agency, and accredited as a hospital by one of the following organizations: The Joint Commission; Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP); DNV Healthcare; Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality (CIHQ); or Medicare certified as a provider of acute service under Title 18 of the Social Security Act.

Q. Am I required to register prior to using the site?

No. You can visit the site without registering. Registration (or sign-in) is required to purchase a Quick Report, or license a database and build a custom report.

Q. What should I do if I’ve lost my password?

You can reset your password on the sign-in page.

Q. What are Quick Reports?

Quick Reports are pre-defined reports which can be purchased in a few short steps. They are pay-as-you-go, pre-formatted, downloadable reports based on frequently requested data. An example is a report of all health care systems and their affiliated hospitals. 

Q. What are Custom Reports?

Custom Reports are data files you create within AHA DataViewer based on the database you have licensed. Using a simple user interface you choose which fields will appear in your report, save it in your account, and download it to your desktop in Microsoft Excel format. The report remains available for you to access, modify, or refresh. Custom Reports require an annual license.

Q. What are the terms and conditions for use of the data?

You will have an opportunity to accept or decline the terms and conditions prior to purchasing a license or a Quick Report.  If your intended use is beyond the terms of the agreement, or if you need a special licensing agreement to accommodate redistribution, contact our sales team at or 866-375-3633.

Q. What sources of data are used on AHA DataViewer?

A combination of primary and secondary data sources are used on AHA DataViewer. Primary data sources include: AHA Annual Survey of Hospitals; AHA Annual Survey IT Supplement; AHA Survey of Care Systems and Payment; Health Forum Construction Survey; and American Hospital Association membership department. Secondary sources include Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Cost Reports; United States Census Bureau; and selected organizations and agencies which accredit hospital facilities and approve specific hospital programs.

Q. How often are the data collected?

The schedule of surveys vary. The AHA Annual Survey, AHA Annual Survey IT Supplement, and Hospital Construction Survey are performed annually. The Survey of Care Systems and Payment is an 'open' survey, meaning we keep the data collection process open throughout the year to continuously gather new insights. Similarly, information provided through the AHA membership department are updated continously. Health Forum obtains CMS Cost Report data quarterly.

Q. When are the data updated on AHA DataViewer?

Much of the information gathered through the AHA membership department is updated monthly. These include items such as the organization name, address, chief administrator, organizational control, primary service, etc. Statistical and service line information from the AHA Annual Survey are updated at least three times: May, August, and a final release in November. Financial data from the CMS Cost Report are updated quarterly.

Q. Where can I get a fields glossary or data dictionary?

Visit Obtain License for a quick reference of available fields by data source. You can also visit 'About' for more information on various databases. There is also a convenient glossary located in Help. Within the site each field has an information icon with glossary content.

Q. Can I get a sample of the data?

A convenient way to sample the data is by purchasing a Quick Report. Based on the most frequent data requests, Quick Reports provide a list or snapshot of a particular service or organization structure. For example, all health care systems and their affiliated hospitals.

Q. How can I determine the time period the data represent?

Both the Hospital database (sourced from the AHA Annual Survey of Hospitals) and the Financial database (sourced from the CMS Cost Reports) have 'date beginning' and 'date ending' fields to identify the reporting period. We recommend including those fields in your custom report.

Q. Which organizations are invited to participate in the surveys conducted by AHA/Health Forum?

All open and operating United States (and Associated Areas) hospitals are invited to participate in AHA surveys regardless of their membership status with the American Hospital Association.

Q. What are the response rates for AHA surveys?

The response rate varies for each of the surveys. The AHA Annual Survey of Hospitals began in 1946 and enjoys an overall  response rate consistently near 80%, which we believe is excellent for a voluntary survey. For questions on a specific database, contact us at 866-375-3633.

Q. How are the data validated?

All data gathered through AHA primary data collection are subject to a rigorous data validation process. Learn more about our survey methodology. Data from secondary sources are not altered by Health Forum.

Q. What is CMS Cost Report data?

CMS Cost Reports are the foundation for the information in the DataViewer Financial Database. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires Medicare-certified institutional providers to submit an annual Cost Report for reimbursement purposes. Institutional providers submit their reports via the Healthcare Provider Cost Reporting Information System (HCRIS) to Medicare Audit Contractors. There are many facets of the Cost Report. AHA DataViewer primarily includes Cost Report data on balance sheet, income statement, revenues and expenses, and utilization.

Q. Which CMS Cost Report forms are used for the Financial Database on AHA DataViewer?

CMS-2552-96 (beginning date 1996; ending date 2011); and CMS-2552-10 (beginning date 2010). AHA DataViewer includes the most recent four years of Cost Report data available. In many cases the CMS-2552-96 forms were used for the earliest data available. The glossary definitions for Financial data fields are based on the CMS-2552-10 form. Exceptions are noted where applicable.

Q. I notice many of the Financial Database field definitions reference a 'worksheet'. What are worksheets?

The CMS Cost Report form (ie. CMS-2552-10) consists of a series of 'worksheets'. AHA DataViewer Financial Database content is based on the following worksheets: A-7, G, G-1, G-2, G-3, S-3, S-10, and the Inpatient Prospective Payment System Impact File.

Q. How can I tell which of the four Cost Report data years is most recent versus earliest year?

'FY1 fieldname' represents the most current year. 'FY4 fieldname' represents the earliest year.

Q. Why does the Financial Database include a four-year view?

Our research indicates that financial data are typically used to identify patterns and trends. AHA DataViewer includes the most recent four years of cost report data available for hospitals that AHA has identified as currently open and operating as a hospital.The beginning and ending date of each Cost Report year are fields you can add to your report. Please note Case Mix Index and Wage Index are only displayed for the current year (which is the most current data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)).

Q. I license historical years of hospital data on AHA DataViewer. Does the Cost Report financial data match the AHA Annual Survevy data year-for-year?

The AHA Annual Survey is conducted annually with a specific closing date. Hospitals reporting Cost Report data to CMS report at various times of the year and in many cases update previously reported data. We recommend you include the 'date beginning' and 'date ending' fields from the hospital and financial databases to identify the time periods of the reported data.

Q. I reviewed the fields available in the Hospital and Financial databases. Both have fields related to beds. Are they the same?

We expect the values for fields such as 'beds' or 'inpatient days' to differ depending on the source. The AHA Annual Survey of Hospitals questionnaire may use a more discrete definition of beds than the CMS Cost Report, or vice versa. The definitions are provided in the glossary. Awareness of the data source is important as you build custom reports using multiple data sources. We're here to help. If you have questions about building your report, contact one of our AHA Resource Center staff members at 312-422-2050.

Q. How can I tell the source of specific data fields in my custom report?

Throughout the AHA DataViewer site there are reference documents to help you identify the data source. The glossary is freely accessible. Most data are sourced from AHA data collection activities. Secondary data sources are cited where applicable.

Q. Do all AHA DataViewer licenses include all of the data regardless of the source?

We recognize one size does not fit all. You may license the data modules that most closely meet your need. Speak to one of our licensing executives to identify the data that best fits your environment. Contact us at 866-375-3633.

Q. What is the cost of Quick Reports?

Pricing varies depending on the report content and format. Some Quick Reports are $50.00; others, such as a complete database, are a few thousand dollars.

Q. What is the cost of Custom Reports?

The cost for building and downloading Custom Reports is based on the license for the associated database (such as Hospital, IT, or Financial database). Custom Reports are not priced individually. Your license fee covers a time period and number of users for licensed data. You may create as many reports as needed within the terms of the Agreement.

Q. What payment methods do you accept?

Credit card payment (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) via our secure ecommerce site is the preferred payment method. Established companies and health care organizations can also pay with a purchase order. For more information on payment options contact us at 866-375-3633.

Q. Can I pay using a purchase order and check?

Purchase Orders may be used for purchases at or greater than $500.00. A company purchase order is required. Follow these steps: 
  1. Link to your organization. Call Sales Operations at 312-893-6844 for assistance.
  2. At checkout, select Purchase Order under Payment Method and enter your purchase order number.  
  3. You will receive an invoice via email. You can also get a PDF receipt of your purchase from My Account→My Purchases. Purchased items are available upon receipt of payment.
  4. Make your check payable to: Health Forum and include a copy of your invoice.
  5. Mail your payment (with copy of invoice) to: Health Forum, P.O. Box 92416, Chicago, IL 60675-2416. Contact Sales  Operations at 312-893-6844 for more assistance.

Q. I received a promotion code. How can I use it?

Promotion codes may be entered during Checkout under My Cart. After the discount code is entered, any balance due will display. Only unexpired, valid promotion codes are accepted.

Q. I can't find a report I purchased. Where is it?

All downloaded reports are available via My Account under My Customer Reports; and are accessible for six (6) months after the initial download or purchase date. Saved queries for Custom Reports remain in your account indefinitely (while the account is active). You can modify and download Custom Reports. To access My Account, click the Login icon in the top, right-hand corner and enter your user ID and password.

Q. I can't find the Quick Report I ordered. Where is it?

  1. After clicking the Purchase button, the report is added to your shopping cart located in the top, right-hand corner of the page.
  2. From your cart, complete the payment process.
  3. Access your Quick Report via My Account→My Purchases.


Q. What other resources are available from Health Forum?

• Data and Reference publications in digital and print formats.
• Historical Hospital and historical Healthcare IT databases for trend analysis.
• Medical and Coding handbooks and digital solutions.
• Thought leader publications such as Hospitals & Health Networks, Health Facilities Management, and Trustee.
• Educational conferences for health care leaders.
• Marketing solutions to reach health care decision makers. Contact us at 866-375-3633 to learn more.