A wide range of existing data sources could potentially be used to improve our understanding of arthritis in the Australian population. This working paper uses an assessment framework recently developed by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (AIHW 2014a) to assess the suitability of the Australian Rheumatology Association Database (ARAD) as a potential new data source for population health monitoring of inflammatory arthritis.

More than 400,000 Australians have rheumatoid arthritis, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis (ABS 2012). This auto-immune disease causes chronic inflammation, pain and swelling of the joints and can greatly reduce a person's quality of life.

The ARAD, managed by the Australian Rheumatology Association, is a national registry that collects health information from individuals with inflammatory arthritis. It was primarily established to monitor the benefits and safety of new treatments, particularly the biological disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (bDMARDs).

The AIHW's assessment of the ARAD for the purpose of national population health monitoring is that:

  • it has the potential to fill a range of identified data gaps in relation to key questions for monitoring arthritis, including treatment outcomes, disease progression, quality of life and economic impacts
  • it has well established administrative and governance arrangements in place to ensure data quality and compliance with legislative requirements
  • it has limited coverage which could potentially be improved by combining with, or linking to, other similar data sources
  • on balance, it is a data source with the potential to provide useful information for population health monitoring of inflammatory arthritis, particularly if used in combination with, or linked to, other data sources.