Background: Administrative health care databases may be particularly useful for injury surveillance, given that they are population-based, readily available, and relatively complete. Surveillance based on administrative data, though, is often restricted to injuries that result in hospitalization. Adding physician billing data to administrative data-based surveillance efforts may improve comprehensiveness, but the feasibility of such an approach has rarely been examined. It is also not clear how injury surveillance information obtained using administrative health care databases compares with that obtained using self-report surveys. This study explored the value of using physician billing data along with hospitalization data for the surveillance of adolescent injuries in Ontario, Canada. We aimed i) to document the burden of adolescent injury using administrative health care data, focusing on the relative contribution of physician billing information; and ii) to explore data quality issues by directly comparing adolescent injuries identified in administrative and self-report data.
Methods: The sample included adolescents aged 12 to 19 years who participated in the 1996-1997 cross-sectional Ontario Health Survey, and whose survey responses were linked to administrative health care datasets (N = 2067). Descriptive analysis was used to document the burden of injuries as a proportion of all physician care by gender and location of care, and to examine the distribution of both administratively-defined and self-reported activity-limiting injuries according to demographic characteristics. Administratively-defined and self-reported injuries were also directly compared at the individual level.
Results: Approximately 10% of physician care for the sample was identified as injury-related. While 18.8% of adolescents had self-reported injury in the previous year, 25.0% had documented administratively-defined injury. The distribution of injuries according to demographic characteristics was similar across data sources, but congruence was low at the individual level. Possible reasons for discrepancies between the data sources included recall errors in the survey data and errors in the physician billing data algorithm.
Conclusion: If further validated, physician billing data could be used along with hospital inpatient data to make an important and unique contribution to adolescent injury surveillance. The limitations inherent in different datasets highlight the need to continue rely on multiple information sources for complete injury surveillance information.