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A descriptive analysis of medical health services utilization of Veterans living in Ontario: a retrospective cohort study using administrative healthcare data

Aiken AB, Mahar AL, Kurdyak P, Whitehead M, Groome PA. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016; 16(a):351. Epub 2016 Aug 4.


Background — Health services utilization by Veterans following release may be different than the general population as the result of occupational conditions, requirements and injuries. This study provides the first longitudinal overview of Canadian Veteran healthcare utilization in the Ontario public health system.

Methods — This is a retrospective cohort study designed to use Ontario's provincial healthcare data to study the demographics and healthcare utilization of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) & RCMP Veterans living in Ontario. Veterans were eligible for the study if they released between January 1, 1990 and March 31, 2013. Databases at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences were linked by a unique identifier to study non-mental health related hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and physician visits. Overall and age-stratified descriptive statistics were calculated in five-year intervals following the date of release.

Results — The cohort is comprised of 23, 818 CAF or RCMP Veterans. Following entry into the provincial healthcare system, 82.6 % (95 % CI 82.1-83.1) of Veterans saw their family physician at least once over the first five years following release, 60.7 % (95 % CI 60.0-61.3) saw a non-mental health specialist, 40.8 % (95 % CI 40.2-41.5) went to the emergency department in that same time period and 9.9 % (9.5-10.3) were hospitalized for non-mental health related complaints. Patterns of non-mental health services utilization appeared to be time and service dependant. Stratifying health services utilization by age of the Veteran at entry into the provincial healthcare system revealed significant differences in service use and intensity.

Conclusion — This study provides the first description of health services utilization by Veterans, following release from the CAF or RCMP. This work will inform the planning and delivery of support to Veterans in Ontario.

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Keywords: Health services research Health care utilization Data evaluation

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