Background: Hospital administrative data, such as those provided by the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) database in England, are increasingly being used for research and quality improvement. To date, no study has tried to quantify and examine trends in the use of HES for research purposes.Objective: To examine trends in the use of HES data for research.Methods: Publications generated from the use of HES data were extracted from PubMed and analysed. Publications from 1996 to 2014 were then examined further in the Science Citation Index (SCI) of the Thompson Scientific Institute for Science Information (Web of Science) for details of research specialty area.Results: 520 studies, categorised into 44 specialty areas, were extracted from PubMed. The review showed an increase in publications over the 18-year period with an average of 27 publications per year, however with the majority of output observed in the latter part of the study period. The highest number of publications was in the Health Statistics specialty area.Conclusion: The use of HES data for research is becoming more common. Increase in publications over time shows that researchers are beginning to take advantage of the potential of HES data. Although HES is a valuable database, concerns exist over the accuracy and completeness of the data entered. Clinicians need to be more engaged with HES for the full potential of this database to be harnessed.