Population coverage of the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System: a survey of the contents of health insurance registries across Canada
INTRODUCTION: Health insurance registries, which capture insurance coverage and demographic information for entire populations, are a critical component of population health surveillance and research when using administrative data. Lack of standardization of registry information across Canada's provinces and territories could affect the comparability of surveillance measures. We assessed the contents of health insurance registries across Canada to describe the populations covered and document registry similarities and differences. METHODS: A survey about the data and population identifiers in health insurance registries was developed by the study team and representatives from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The survey was completed by key informants from most provinces and territories and then descriptively analyzed. RESULTS: Responses were received from all provinces; partial responses were received from the Northwest Territories. Demographic information in health insurance registries, such as primary address, date of birth and sex, were captured in all jurisdictions. Data captured on familial relationships, ethnicity and socioeconomic status varied among jurisdictions, as did start and end dates of coverage and frequency of registry updates. Identifiers for specific populations, such as First Nations individuals, were captured in some, but not all jurisdictions. CONCLUSION: Health insurance registries are a rich source of information about the insured populations of the provinces and territories. However, data heterogeneity may affect who is included and excluded in population surveillance estimates produced using administrative health data. Development of a harmonized data framework could support timely and comparable population health research and surveillance results from multi-jurisdiction studies.
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