Utilization of Health Resources due to Low Back Pain: Survey and Registered Data Compared

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Abstract

Study Design.

Cross-sectional population-based survey and registration of general practice (GP).

Objective.

To describe the utilization of health care services among persons with low back pain on the basis of different databases, i.e., surveys and registrations. Special attention will be paid to utilization of GPs, specific medical specialists, and physiotherapists.

Summary of Background Data.

Both surveys and health care registrations can provide data on utilization of health care services due to low back pain. It is unclear as to how the utilization figures from different data sources can be compared.

Methods.

Survey data from the Dutch population-based Musculoskeletal Complaints and Consequences Cohort study, a postal health survey among Dutch inhabitants aged 25 years or older (n = 3664) in 1998, and registered data from the second Dutch National Survey of General Practice, which represents 2 years (2000–2001) of GP-registration data for 293,636 persons aged 25 years or older.

Results.

The size of the population that in 1 year had GP-contact due to low back pain was estimated as 13.0% (survey) and 8.9% (registration data). Less than one-third of those with low back pain consult their GP due to low back pain in the past year. Survey data show that 33.2% of those with low back pain have had contact with the physiotherapist. Of those contacts, 76% were explicitly due to low back pain. Based on the registration data, these percentages were slightly different: 25.9% and 83.8%, respectively. Large differences between survey and registration data were found for the contact with a medical specialist.

Conclusion.

Large health care resources are used for low back pain although the majority of low back pain sufferers do not have contact with health care. Survey data show slightly higher consultation figures than registration-based figures probably mainly due to response and recall bias, and registration thresholds.

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