Administrative hospital discharge data are widely used to assess quality of care in patients undergoing certain procedures. However, little is known about the validity of administrative coding of procedure data. We conducted a detailed chart review to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of information on procedures in administrative data.
We randomly selected 1200 hospital separations in the period April 1, 1996, to March 31, 1997, from administrative discharge data of 3 acute adult hospitals in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Each separation record in administrative data contains up to 10 procedure coding fields. The corresponding medical charts were reviewed for recording presence or absence of procedures. We then determined sensitivity to quantify the accuracy of coding presence of procedures in administrative data when these are present in the chart data (criterion standard).
The agreement between the 2 databases varied greatly across 35 procedures studied. The sensitivity ranged from 0% to 94%. Of 6 major procedures studied, validity of coding was generally good, with 5 procedures having coding sensitivity of 69% and over and only 1 (lysis of peritoneal adhesion) with a low sensitivity of 41%. In contrast, many minor procedures had low sensitivities. Of 29 minor procedures studied, sensitivity was lower than 50% for 15 procedures, between 50% and 79% for 10, and 80% and over for 4.
Validity of information on procedures in administrative discharge data appears to be related to type of procedures. Major procedures that are usually performed in operating rooms are reasonably well-coded. Meanwhile, minor procedures that are routinely performed on wards or in radiology departments are generally undercoded.