OpenSAFELY: Representativeness of electronic health record platform OpenSAFELY-TPP data compared to the population of England
Andrews C., Schultze A., Curtis H., Hulme W., Tazare J., Evans S., Mehrkar A., Bacon S., Hickman G., Bates C., Parry J., Hester F., Harper S., Cockburn J., Evans D., Ward T., Davy S., Inglesby P., Goldacre B., MacKenna B., Tomlinson L., Walker A.
Background: Since its inception in March 2020, data from the OpenSAFELY-TPP electronic health record platform has been used for more than 20 studies relating to the global COVID-19 emergency. OpenSAFELY-TPP data is derived from practices in England using SystmOne software, and has been used for the majority of these studies. We set out to investigate the representativeness of OpenSAFELY-TPP data by comparing it to national population estimates. Methods: With the approval of NHS England, we describe the age, sex, Index of Multiple Deprivation and ethnicity of the OpenSAFELY-TPP population compared to national estimates from the Office for National Statistics. The five leading causes of death occurring between the 1st January 2020 and the 31st December 2020 were also compared to deaths registered in England during the same period. Results: Despite regional variations, TPP is largely representative of the general population of England in terms of IMD (all within 1.1 percentage points), age, sex (within 0.1 percentage points), ethnicity and causes of death. The proportion of the five leading causes of death is broadly similar to those reported by ONS (all within 1 percentage point). Conclusions: Data made available via OpenSAFELY-TPP is broadly representative of the English population. Users of OpenSAFELY must consider the issues of representativeness, generalisability and external validity associated with using TPP data for health research. Although the coverage of TPP practices varies regionally across England, TPP registered patients are generally representative of the English population as a whole in terms of key demographic characteristics.