Introduction: Physician services databases (PSDs) are a valuable resource for research and surveillance in Canada. However, because the provinces and territories collect and maintain separate databases, data elements are not standardized. This study compared major features of PSDs.
Methods: The primary source was a survey of key informants that collected information about years of data, patient/provider characteristics, database inclusions/exclusions, coding of diagnoses, procedures and service locations. Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information's (CIHI) National Physician Database were used to examine physician remuneration methods, which may affect PSD completeness. Survey data were obtained for nine provinces and two territories.
Results: Most databases contained post-1990 records. Diagnoses were frequently recorded using ICD-9 codes. Other coding systems differed across jurisdictions and time, although all PSDs identified in-hospital services and distinguished family medicine from other specialties. Capture of non-fee-for-service records varied and CIHI data revealed an increasing proportion of non-fee-for-service physicians over time.
Conclusion: Further research is needed to investigate the potential effects of PSD differences on comparability of findings from pan-Canadian studies.