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Ann Intern Med. 2014 Mar 18;160(6):380-8. doi: 10.7326/M13-1419.

Variation in diagnostic coding of patients with pneumonia and its association with hospital risk-standardized mortality rates: a cross-sectional analysis.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Most U.S. hospitals publicly report 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates for pneumonia. Rates exclude severe cases, which may be assigned a secondary diagnosis of pneumonia and a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure. By assigning sepsis and respiratory failure codes more liberally, hospitals might improve their reported performance.

OBJECTIVE:

To examine the effect of the definition of pneumonia on hospital mortality rates.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional study.

SETTING:

329 U.S. hospitals.

PATIENTS:

Adults hospitalized for pneumonia (as a principal diagnosis or secondary diagnosis paired with a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure) between 2007 and 2010.

MEASUREMENTS:

Proportion of patients with pneumonia coded with a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure and risk-standardized mortality rates excluding versus including a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure.

RESULTS:

When the definition of pneumonia was limited to patients with a principal diagnosis of pneumonia, the risk-standardized mortality rate was significantly better than the mean in 4.3% of hospitals and significantly worse in 6.4%. When the definition was broadened to include patients with a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure, this rate was better than the mean in 11.9% of hospitals and worse in 22.8% and the outlier status of 28.3% of hospitals changed. Among hospitals in the highest quintile of proportion of patients coded with a principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure, outlier status under the broader definition improved in 7.6% and worsened in 40.9%. Among those in the lowest quintile, 20.0% improved and none worsened.

LIMITATION:

Only inpatient mortality was studied.

CONCLUSION:

Variation in use of the principal diagnosis of sepsis or respiratory failure may bias efforts to compare hospital performance regarding pneumonia outcomes.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

PMID:
24723078
DOI:
10.7326/M13-1419
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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