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Prev Chronic Dis. 2013 May 9;10:E76. doi: 10.5888/pcd10.120288.

Survey of New York City resident physicians on cause-of-death reporting, 2010.

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  • 1St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10019, USA.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Death certificates contain critical information for epidemiology, public health research, disease surveillance, and community health programs. In most teaching hospitals, resident physicians complete death certificates. The objective of this study was to examine the experiences and opinions of physician residents in New York City on the accuracy of the cause-of-death reporting system.

METHODS:

In May and June 2010, we conducted an anonymous, Internet-based, 32-question survey of all internal medicine, emergency medicine, and general surgery residency programs (n = 70) in New York City. We analyzed data by type of residency and by resident experience in reporting deaths. We defined high-volume respondents as those who completed 11 or more death certificates in the last 3 years.

RESULTS:

A total of 521 residents from 38 residency programs participated (program response rate, 54%). We identified 178 (34%) high-volume respondents. Only 33.3% of all respondents and 22.7% of high-volume residents believed that cause-of-death reporting is accurate. Of all respondents, 48.6% had knowingly reported an inaccurate cause of death; 58.4% of high-volume residents had done so. Of respondents who indicated they reported an inaccurate cause, 76.8% said the system would not accept the correct cause, 40.5% said admitting office personnel instructed them to "put something else," and 30.7% said the medical examiner instructed them to do so; 64.6% cited cardiovascular disease as the most frequent diagnosis inaccurately reported.

CONCLUSION:

Most resident physicians believed the current cause-of-death reporting system is inaccurate, often knowingly documenting incorrect causes. The system should be improved to allow reporting of more causes, and residents should receive better training on completing death certificates.

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