Background: Multiple comorbidity measures have been developed for risk-adjustment in studies using administrative data, but it is unclear which measure is optimal for specific outcomes and if the measures are equally valid in different populations. This research examined the predictive performance of five comorbidity measures in three population-based cohorts.
Methods: Administrative data from the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, were used to create the cohorts. The general population cohort included all Saskatchewan residents 20+ years, the diabetes cohort included individuals 20+ years with a diabetes diagnosis in hospital and/or physician data, and the osteoporosis cohort included individuals 50+ years with diagnosed or treated osteoporosis. Five comorbidity measures based on health services utilization, number of different diagnoses, and prescription drugs over one year were defined. Predictive performance was assessed for death and hospitalization outcomes using measures of discrimination (c-statistic) and calibration (Brier score) for multiple logistic regression models.
Results: The comorbidity measures with optimal performance were the same in the general population (n = 662,423), diabetes (n = 41,925), and osteoporosis (n = 28,068) cohorts. For mortality, the Elixhauser index resulted in the highest c-statistic and lowest Brier score, followed by the Charlson index. For hospitalization, the number of diagnoses had the best predictive performance. Consistent results were obtained when we restricted attention to the population 65+ years in each cohort.
Conclusions: The optimal comorbidity measure depends on the health outcome and not on the disease characteristics of the study population.