To assess the accuracy of self‐reported ambulatory care visits, emergency department () encounters, and overnight hospitalizations in a population‐based sample of homeless adults.
Self‐report survey data and administrative health care utilization databases.
Self‐reported health care use in the past 12 months was compared to administrative encounter records among 1,163 homeless adults recruited in 2004–2005 from shelters and meal programs in Toronto, Ontario.
Self‐reported health care use was assessed using a structured face‐to‐face survey. Each participant was linked to administrative databases using a unique personal health number or their first name, last name, sex, and date of birth.
The sensitivity of self‐report for ambulatory care visits, encounters, and overnight hospitalizations was 89, 80, and 73 percent, respectively; specificity was 37, 83, and 91 percent. The mean difference between self‐reported and documented number of encounters in the past 12 months was +1.6 for ambulatory care visits (95 percent = 0.4, 2.8), −0.6 for encounters (95 percent = −0.8, −0.4), and 0.0 for hospitalizations (95 percent = 0.0, 0.1).
Adults experiencing homelessness are quite accurate reporters of their use of health care, especially for encounters and hospitalizations.