Within the health literature, a major goal is to understand distribution of service utilisation by social location. Given equivalent access, differential incidence leads to an expectation of differential service utilisation. Cancer incidence is differentially distributed with respect to socioeconomic status. However, not all jurisdictions have incidence registries, and not all registries allow linkage with utilisation records. The British Columbia Linked Health Data resource allows such linkage. Consequently, we examine whether, in the absence of registry data, first hospitalisation can act as a proxy measure for incidence, and therefore as a measure of need for service.
Data are drawn from the British Columbia Linked Health Data resource, and represent 100% of Vancouver Island Health Authority cancer registry and hospital records, 1990–1999. Hospital separations (discharges) with principal diagnosis ICD-9 codes 140–208 are included, as are registry records with ICDO-2 codes C00-C97. Non-melanoma skin cancer (173/C44) is excluded. Lung, colorectal, female breast, and prostate cancers are examined separately. We compare registry and hospital annual counts and age-sex distributions, and whether the same individuals are represented in both datasets. Sensitivity, specificity and predictive values are calculated, as is the kappa statistic for agreement. The registry is designated the gold standard.
For all cancers combined, first hospitalisation counts consistently overestimate registry incidence counts. From 1995–1999, there is no significant difference between registry and hospital counts for lung and colorectal cancer (p = 0.42 and p = 0.56, respectively). Age-sex distribution does not differ for colorectal cancer. Ten-year period sensitivity ranges from 73.0% for prostate cancer to 84.2% for colorectal cancer; ten-year positive predictive values range from 89.5% for female breast cancer to 79.35% for prostate cancer. Kappa values are consistently high.
Claims and registry databases overlap with an appreciable proportion of the same individuals. First hospital separation may be considered a proxy for incidence with reference to colorectal cancer since 1995. However, to examine equity across cancer health services utilisation, it is optimal to have access to both hospital and registry files.