The surveillance of heart failure (HF) is currently conducted using either survey or hospital data, which have many limitations. Because Canada is collecting medical information in administrative health data, the present study seeks to propose methods for the national surveillance of HF using linked population-based data.
Linked administrative data from 5 Canadian provinces were analyzed to estimate prevalence, incidence, and mortality rates for persons with HF between 1996/1997 and 2008/2009 using 2 case definitions: (1) 1 hospitalization with an HF diagnosis in any field (H_Any) and (2) 1 hospitalization in any field or at least 2 physician claims within a 1-year period (H_Any_2P). One hospitalization with an HF diagnosis code in the most responsible diagnosis field (H_MR) was also compared. Rates were calculated for individuals aged = 40 years.
In 2008/2009, combining the 5 provinces (approximately 82% of Canada's total population), both age-standardized HF prevalence and incidence were underestimated by 39% and 33%, respectively, with H_Any when compared with H_Any_2P. Mortality was higher in patients with H_MR compared with H_Any. The degree of underestimation varied by province and by age, with older age groups presenting the largest differences. Prevalence estimates were stable over the years, especially for the H_Any_2P case definition.
The prevalence and incidence of HF using inpatient data alone likely underestimates the population rates by at least 33%. The addition of physician claims data is likely to provide a more inclusive estimate of the burden of HF in Canada.