Background and objectives: Primary care databases form a unique source of population-based clinical information on the prevalence and management of diagnosed disorders. Historically such databases have lacked individual level socio-economic markers. We describe the development of the Doctors' Independent Network (DIN) database for epidemiological and health services research. DIN includes a socio-economic marker (ACORN) based on postcode linkage at individual patient level. The validity of DIN is assessed against the General Practice Research Database (GPRD).
Methods: External validity is assessed by comparing the demographic structure and prevalence rates for treated ischemic heart disease (IHD) and treated hay fever with those from the GPRD. We assess the utility of a socio-economic measure (ACORN) based on postcode-linkage at individual patient level by examining the trend in prevalence rates of IHD and hay fever by ACORN index.
Results: 142 practices providing high quality data were selected, with 1827361 fully registered patients contributing data between 1992 and 2001, representing an identical age-sex structure to that for England & Wales and GPRD. Regionally adjusted prevalence of treated IHD (7.29 and 5.37%, respectively for men and women aged 35+ in 1998) in DIN was highly comparable to GPRD (7.27 and 5.42%). In DIN, the odds ratio of IHD was 1.37 (95% CI 1.30-1.44) in subjects living in "striving" compared to "thriving" areas. The prevalence of treated hay fever prevalence was similar across databases, with inverse associations seen with ACORN in DIN (higher rates in "thriving" areas).
Conclusions: DIN provides comparable period prevalence rates to GPRD for two common conditions, with social trends as expected. Primary care databases such as these have the potential to replace the decennial national morbidity surveys carried out in UK general practices, with DIN having the important advantage of including a socio-economic index.