The reliability and validity of doctor-recorded morbidity data in active data collection systems

Scand J Prim Health Care. 1998 Mar;16(1):50-5. doi: 10.1080/028134398750003412.


Objective: To test the reliability and validity of morbidity data recorded by general practitioners (family physicians) on structured recording forms in active data collection systems.

Design: The consulting general practitioner recorded the problems managed at 347 video-taped doctor-patient contacts. Two observers independently viewed the video-tapes and completed a recording form for each. Problems were centrally coded, using the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC).

Setting: Primary health care.

Main outcome measures: Overall distribution of the morbidity; positive agreement regarding the morbidity managed at matched contacts at three levels of specificity (chapter; chapter-component; specific rubric); agreement taking negative agreement into account using Cohen's Kappa.

Results: Overall distribution of morbidity did not differ between observers. Positive mean agreement was 78.8% at chapter level, 69.6% at chapter-component, and 55.9% at rubric level. Kappa statistics showed agreement better than chance in all chapters, but failed to reach significance at rubric level in three chapters.

Conclusion: Morbidity data actively collected by GPs provide a reliable overview of morbidity managed in general practice. At a specific contact the morbidity recorded is reliable and valid at chapter level, and in most cases, at chapter-component level. At rubric level variance between practitioners in labelling the problem calls into question the validity and reliability of the data.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Forms and Records Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity*
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results