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BMJ Open. 2017 Jun 21;7(6):e013977. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013977.

Filling the gaps in SARDs research: collection and linkage of administrative health data and self-reported survey data for a general population-based cohort of individuals with and without diagnoses of systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease (SARDs) from British Columbia, Canada.

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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Arthritis Research Canada, Richmond, Canada.
Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



Systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs) are a group of debilitating autoimmune diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus and related disorders. Assessing the healthcare and economic burden of SARDs has been challenging: while administrative databases can be used to determine healthcare utilisation and costs with minimal selection and recall bias, other health, sociodemographic and economic data have typically been sourced from highly selected, clinic-based cohorts. To address these gaps, we are collecting self-reported survey data from a general population-based cohort of individuals with and without SARDs and linking it to their longitudinal administrative health data.


Using administrative data from the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, we established a population-based cohort of all BC adults receiving care for SARDs during 1996-2010 (n=20 729) and non-SARD individuals randomly selected from the general population. BC Ministry of Health granted us contact information for 12 000 SARD and non-SARD individuals, who were recruited to complete the surveys by mail or online.


Four hundred individuals were initially invited to participate, with 135 (34%) consenting and 127 (94%) submitting the first survey (72% completed online). Sixty-three (49.6%) reported ≥1 SARD diagnosis. The non-SARDs group (n=64) was 92% female with mean age 57.0±11.6 years. The SARDs group (n=63) was 94% female with mean age 56.5±13.1 years. Forty-eight per cent of those with SARDs were current-or-former smokers (mean 10.6±16.2 pack-years), and 33% were overweight or obese (mean body mass index of 24.4±5.3).


Health and productivity data collected from the surveys will be linked to participants' administrative health data from the years 1990-2013, allowing us to determine the healthcare and lost productivity costs of SARDs, and assess the impact of patient-reported variables on utilisation, costs, disability and clinical outcomes. Findings will be disseminated through scientific conferences and peer-reviewed journals.


administrative data; data linkage; health economics; rheumatic diseases; statistics and research methods; survey

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