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Canadian Journal of Cardiology

Identifying Atrial Fibrillation From 30,000 Feet: Strengths and Weaknesses of Health Administrative Data

  • Stephen B. Wilton
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author: Dr Stephen B. Wilton, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, GE64 3280 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4Z6, Canada. Tel.: +1-403-210-7102; fax +1-403-210-9180.
    Affiliations
    Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and O’Brien Institute of Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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  • Hongwei Liu
    Affiliations
    Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and O’Brien Institute of Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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  • Danielle A. Southern
    Affiliations
    Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta and O’Brien Institute of Public Health, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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      Health administrative, or "claims" data are collected and stored by government agencies or other payers, primarily for purposes related to their mandates: for instance, to maintain accurate population registers, plan service delivery, and pay physicians. As a result of its universal health care system and unique provincial identifiers allowing linkage of multiple data sets, Canada enjoys a relatively rich health administrative data "ecosystem" compared with many other countries.
      • Quan H.
      • Smith M.
      • Bartlett-Esquilant G.
      • et al.
      Mining administrative health databases to advance medical science: geographical considerations and untapped potential in Canada.
      This system has permitted secondary use of health administrative data for research and quality improvement. Researchers, health authorities, and nonprofit agencies are all naturally interested in using these data, including for cohort definition, comorbidity adjustment, exposure classification, and outcome ascertainment. Compared with primary data collection, using such secondary data sources has the advantages of population-level coverage and typically a much lower (zero in some cases) cost for data collection, increasing the feasibility of many projects. Canadian researchers have used these data to make innumerable important methodological contributions and empirical observations in the fields of epidemiology, health services research, health economics, and randomized clinical trials.
      • Kaczorowski J.
      • Chambers L.W.
      • Dolovich L.
      • et al.
      Improving cardiovascular health at population level: 39 community cluster randomised trial of Cardiovascular Health Awareness Program (CHAP).
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