APH 2003, 61, 177-190:

Measurement of the Use of Curative Health Services: Health Interview survey versus National Registers.

J. Van der Heyden, J. Tafforeau, H. Van Oyen, S. Demarest

Keywords: health interview survey, use of health care, curative medical services, validation

Introduction: Information on the use of curative services is essential to establish an efficient health policy and may be obtained both by registrations and health interview surveys. A comparison between data from these two sources has been performed in order to assess the validity of the information on the use of curative services in a health survey.

Methods:
Information on the number of contacts with medical practitioners and on hospital admissions based on data from the 1997 Belgian Health Interview Survey (HIS) was compared with results from respectively the National Institute for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance and the Hospital Discharge Registration.

Results:
General estimates of the average annual number of medical contacts per person in the health interview survey are in line with the results from the registration systems. For more specific information on contacts with medical practitioners, the estimates of a health interview survey are less accurate. A health interview survey provides quite reliable information on the annual number of hospitalisations for young and middle-aged persons, but underestimates the hospital admission rates for the elderly.

Conclusions:
A health interview survey is a useful instrument to measure the use of curative health services because it allows relating the use of health services to a large number of other health and health related information. In general, health interview survey estimates are quite reliable. Information from a health survey may however underestimate the actual use in some population groups due to underreporting or a selection bias towards persons with a lower medical consumption profile.