The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and Evaluation (MCHPE) conducts health services research focusing on Manitoba's administrative databases. Administrative databases contain information which is routinely and systematically collected for administrative purposes such as hospital and physician claims and funding requirements. This article describes the MCHPE's five major databases, their strengths and limitations, and the development of the Population Health Information System (PHIS). Four modules from PHIS illustrate how the data are used to provide useful information for health care planners, administrators and policy analysts. Finally, future projects and directions for using administrative databases are explored.