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Appl Clin Inform. 2017 Aug 30;8(3):880-892. doi: 10.4338/ACI-2017-05-RA-0075.

Exploring Vital Sign Data Quality in Electronic Health Records with Focus on Emergency Care Warning Scores.

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Niclas Skyttberg, MD, Health Informatics Centre, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management, and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden, Email:, Phone +46 700 02 87 74.



Computerized clinical decision support and automation of warnings have been advocated to assist clinicians in detecting patients at risk of physiological instability. To provide reliable support such systems are dependent on high-quality vital sign data. Data quality depends on how, when and why the data is captured and/or documented.


This study aims to describe the effects on data quality of vital signs by three different types of documentation practices in five Swedish emergency hospitals, and to assess data fitness for calculating warning and triage scores. The study also provides reference data on triage vital signs in Swedish emergency care.


We extracted a dataset including vital signs, demographic and administrative data from emergency care visits (n=335027) at five Swedish emergency hospitals during 2013 using either completely paper-based, completely electronic or mixed documentation practices. Descriptive statistics were used to assess fitness for use in emergency care decision support systems aiming to calculate warning and triage scores, and data quality was described in three categories: currency, completeness and correctness. To estimate correctness, two further categories - plausibility and concordance - were used.


The study showed an acceptable correctness of the registered vital signs irrespectively of the type of documentation practice. Completeness was high in sites where registrations were routinely entered into the Electronic Health Record (EHR). The currency was only acceptable in sites with a completely electronic documentation practice.


Although vital signs that were recorded in completely electronic documentation practices showed plausible results regarding correctness, completeness and currency, the study concludes that vital signs documented in Swedish emergency care EHRs cannot generally be considered fit for use for calculation of triage and warning scores. Low completeness and currency were found if the documentation was not completely electronic.


Vital signs; clinical decision support systems.; data quality; electronic health records; emergency medicine

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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