Multi-province epidemiological research using linked administrative data: a case study from Canada.

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Amanda Leanne Butler Mark Smith Wayne Jones Carol E Adair Simone Vigod Paul Kurdyak Alain Lesage
Published online: Sep 21, 2018


Background
Canada has a publicly-funded universal healthcare system with information systems managed by 13 different provinces and territories. This context creates inconsistencies in data collection and challenges for research or surveillance conducted at the national or multi-jurisdictional level.


Objective
Using a recent Canadian research project as a case study, we document the strengths and challenges of using administrative health data in a multi-jurisdictional context. We discuss the implications of using different health information systems and the solutions we adopted to deal with variations. Our goal is to contribute to better understanding of these challenges and the development of a more integrated and harmonized approach to conducting multi-jurisdictional research using administrative data.


Context and Model
Using data from five separate provincial healthcare data systems, we sought to create and report on a set of provincially-comparable mental health and addiction services performance indicators. In this paper, we document the research process, challenges, and solutions. Finally, we conclude by making recommendations for investment in national infrastructure that could help cut costs, broaden scope, and increase use of administrative health data that exists in Canada.


Conclusion
Canada has an incredible wealth of administrative data that resides in 13 territorial and provincial government systems. Navigating access and improving comparability across these systems has been an ongoing challenge for the past 20 years, but progress is being made. We believe that with some investment, a more harmonized and integrated information network could be developed that supports a broad range of surveillance and research activities with strong policy and program implications.


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