Psychiatric case registers are systematic health information systems of a geographically delimited area that record the contacts with designated medical and social services of patients or clients from the area. The information is stored in a linked and cumulative file so that the care of any individual or group can be followed over time, no matter how complex the pattern of service attendance (Wing, 1989). They represent the evolution of older systems for recording data of clinical relevance, such as disease registers to which hospitals and physicians used to report all cases of a certain diagnosis and hospital-based registers, which in general are based on aggregate data concerning patients who received care by a particular hospital or clinic (Häfner & an der Heiden, 1986).
Bennett & Trute (1983) pointed out that the term “information” has substantially wider connotations than the term “data”. In order to become “information”, data have to be placed within a framework and interpreted. This is true for all medical information systems, including those that collect limited data set, such as those about births, deaths, admissions to hospital, etc. (Wing, 1986).
A WHO Working Group held in Mannheim provided an agreed definition of a Psychiatric Case Register (PCR) which resulted in the following: “a Psychiatric Case Register is a patient-centered longitudinal record of contacts with a defined set of psychiatric services, originating from a defined population” (WHO, 1983).