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Quality declaration- Cause of Death data, summary
For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
Statistics presented in Causes of Death, Australia, 2017 (cat. no. 3303.0) are sourced from death registrations administered by the various state and territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. It is a legal requirement of each state and territory that all deaths are registered. Information about the deceased is supplied by a relative or other person acquainted with the deceased, or by an official of the institution where the death occurred on a Death Registration Form. As part of the registration process, information on the cause of death is either supplied by the medical practitioner certifying the death on a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or supplied as a result of a coronial investigation.
Death records are provided electronically to the ABS by individual Registrars on a monthly basis. Each death record contains both demographic data and medical information from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, where available. Information from coronial investigations is provided to the ABS through the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).
The ABS Causes of Death collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose usual residence is overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS deaths or causes of death statistics.
From the 2007 reference year, the scope of the collection is:
For example, records received by the ABS during the March quarter of 2018 which were initially registered in 2017 or prior (but not forwarded to the ABS until 2018) are assigned to the 2017 reference year. Any death registrations relating to the 2017 reference period which are received by the ABS after the end of the March 2018 quarter are assigned to the 2018 reference year.
Data in the Causes of Death collection include causes of death information, as well as some demographic items. Causes of death information is obtained from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (general deaths), the Medical Certificate of Cause of Perinatal Death (perinatal deaths) and the National Coronial Information System (coroner-certified deaths). Causes of death are coded according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
Issues for causes of death data:
Causes of Death, Australia dataset is released annually, approximately nine months after the end of the reference period and in conjunction with Deaths, Australia 2017 (cat. no. 3302.0).
Prior to the release of the 2015 dataset, causes of death data had been released approximately 15 months after the end of the reference period, however changes to process allowed for more timely access to Australian mortality data. For more information see A more timely annual collection: changes to ABS processes (Technical Note) in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015 (cat. no. 3303.0).
There is a focus on fitness for purpose when causes of death statistics are released. To meet user requirements for accurate causes of death data it is necessary to obtain information from other administrative sources before all information for the reference period is available. This specifically applies to coroner certified deaths, where extra information relating to the death is provided through police, toxicology, autopsy and coronial finding reports. A balance therefore needs to be maintained between accuracy (completeness) of data and timeliness. ABS provides the data in a timely manner, ensuring that all coding possible can be undertaken with accuracy prior to publication.
As coroner certified deaths can have ill-defined causes of death until a case is closed within the coronial system, a revisions process was introduced to enhance the cause of death output for open coroner cases. This process enables the use of additional information for coding relating to coroner certified deaths at approximately 12 and/or 24 months after initial processing. See Explanatory Notes 57-60 and the Causes of Death Revisions, 2013 Final Data Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2015, for further information on the revision process.
Causes of Death, Australia, 2017, includes preliminary data for 2017 and 2016, revised data for 2015 and final data for 2014 and prior years. Revised output for the 2015 and 2016 data will be released in early 2019.
Issues for causes of death data:
Non-sampling errors may influence accuracy in datasets which constitute a complete census of the population, such as the Causes of Death collection. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by working closely with data providers, undertaking quality checks throughout the data processing cycle, training of processing staff, and efficient data processing procedures.
The ABS has implemented a revisions process that applies to all coroner certified deaths registered after 1 January 2006. This is a change from preceding years where all ABS processing of causes of death data for a particular reference period was finalised approximately 13 months after the end of the reference period. The revisions process enables the use of additional information relating to coroner certified deaths as it becomes available over time, resulting in increased specificity of the assigned ICD-10 codes. See Explanatory Notes 57-60 in this publication, and the Causes of Death Revisions, 2014 Final Data Technical Note in Causes of Death, Australia, 2016, for further information on the revision process.
Use of explanatory notes and technical notes released with the statistics is important for assessing coherence within the dataset and when comparing the statistics with data from other sources. Changing business rules over time and/or across data sources can affect consistency and hence interpretability of statistical output, especially when assessing time series data.
The ICD is the international standard classification for epidemiological purposes and is designed to promote international comparability in the collection, processing, classification, and presentation of cause of death statistics. The classification is used to classify diseases, conditions, injuries and external events as recorded on many types of medical records as well as death records. It is used for both morbidity and mortality purposes, with the morbidity version incorporating clinical modifications. The ICD is revised periodically to incorporate changes in the medical field. The 10th revision of ICD (ICD-10) was used for coding the 2017 data.
In 2014, the ABS implemented Iris, a new automated coding software product for assisting in the processing of cause of death data. This software has been used from 2013 reference year cause of death data onwards. With the introduction of new coding software, the ABS also implemented the most up to date versions of the ICD-10 when coding 2013 and 2014-2017 data (using the 2013 and 2015 versions, respectively), and improved a number of coding practices to realign with international best practice. As part of this, the ABS began a review of its method of coding perinatal deaths which, for the 2013-2017 data published in this issue, has meant a change to the method used for assigning an underlying cause of death to neonatal deaths. It is advised that data users refer to the below technical notes for further details.
The Causes of Death publication contains detailed Explanatory Notes, Technical Notes, Appendices and a Glossary that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.
In addition to the information provided in this publication, a series of data cubes are also available, providing detailed breakdowns by causes of death. The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users.
If the information you require is not available from the publication or the data cubes, then the ABS may also have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
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