OBJECTIVES: Linkage of electronic health records (EHRs) to Hospital Episode Statistics (HES)-Office for National Statistics (ONS) mortality data has provided compelling evidence for lower life expectancy in people with severe mental illness. However, linkage error may underestimate these estimates. Using a clinical sample (n=265 300) of individuals accessing mental health services, we examined potential biases introduced through missed matching and examined the impact on the association between clinical disorders and mortality.
SETTING: The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) is a secondary mental healthcare provider in London. A deidentified version of SLaM's EHR was available via the Clinical Record Interactive Search system linked to HES-ONS mortality records.
PARTICIPANTS: Records from SLaM for patients active between January 2006 and December 2016.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Two sources of death data were available for SLaM participants: accurate and contemporaneous date of death via local batch tracing (gold standard) and date of death via linked HES-ONS mortality data. The effect of linkage error on mortality estimates was evaluated by comparing sociodemographic and clinical risk factor analyses using gold standard death data against HES-ONS mortality records.
RESULTS: Of the total sample, 93.74% were successfully matched to HES-ONS records. We found a number of statistically significant administrative, sociodemographic and clinical differences between matched and unmatched records. Of note, schizophrenia diagnosis showed a significant association with higher mortality using gold standard data (OR 1.08; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.15; p=0.02) but not in HES-ONS data (OR 1.05; 95% CI 0.98 to 1.13; p=0.16). Otherwise, little change was found in the strength of associated risk factors and mortality after accounting for missed matching bias.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite significant clinical and sociodemographic differences between matched and unmatched records, changes in mortality estimates were minimal. However, researchers and policy analysts using HES-ONS linked resources should be aware that administrative linkage processes can introduce error.
- health informatics
- mental health