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Epidemiol Prev. 2019 Jul-Aug;43(4 Suppl 2):8-16. doi: 10.19191/EP19.4.S2.P008.089.

A Systematic Review of Case-Identification Algorithms for 18 Conditions Based on Italian Healthcare Administrative Databases: A Study Protocol.

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Department of Cardio-Thoraco-Vascular Sciences and Public Health, University of Padua, Padua (Italy).
Local Health Unit "Azienda ULSS 2 Marca Trevigiana", Veneto Region (Italy).
Epidemiology Unit, ASL TO3, Piedmont Region, Grugliasco, Turin (Italy).
National Centre for Healthcare Research and Pharmacoepidemiology, Milan (Italy).
Laboratory of Healthcare Research & Pharmacoepidemiology, Department of Statistics and Quantitative Methods, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan (Italy).
Regional Agency for Healthcare Services of Tuscany, Epidemiology Unit, Florence (Italy).
Department of Medicine, Surgery and Neuroscience, University of Siena, Siena (Italy).
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, (Italy).
Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, ASL Roma 1, Rome (Italy).
Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, ASL Roma 1, Rome (Italy);



there has been a long-standing, consistent use worldwide of Healthcare Administrative Databases (HADs) for epidemiological purposes, especially to identify acute and chronic health conditions. These databases are able to reflect health-related conditions at a population level through disease-specific case-identification algorithms that combine information coded in multiple HADs. In Italy, in the past 10 years, HAD-based case-identification algorithms have experienced a constant increase, with a significant extension of the spectrum of identifiable diseases. Besides estimating incidence and/or prevalence of diseases, these algorithms have been used to enroll cohorts, monitor quality of care, assess the effect of environmental exposure, and identify health outcomes in analytic studies. Despite the rapid increase in the use of case-identification algorithms, information on their accuracy and misclassification rate is currently unavailable for most conditions.


to define a protocol to systematically review algorithms used in Italy in the past 10 years for the identification of several chronic and acute diseases, providing an accessible overview to future users in the Italian and international context.


PubMed will be searched for original research articles, published between 2007 and 2017, in Italian or English. The search string consists of a combination of free text and MeSH terms with a common part on HADs and a disease-specific part. All identified papers will be screened for eligibility by two independent reviewers. All articles that used/defined an algorithm for the identification of each disease of interest using Italian HADs will be included. Algorithms with exclusive use of death certificates, pathology register, general practitioner or pediatrician data will be excluded. Pertinent papers will be classified according to the objective for which the algorithm was used, and only articles that used algorithms with "primary objectives" (I disease occurrence; II population/cohort selection; III outcome identification) will be considered for algorithm extraction. The HADs used (hospital discharge records, drug prescriptions, etc.), ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes, ATC classification of drugs, follow-back periods, and age ranges applied by the algorithms will be collected. Further information on specific accuracy measures from external validations, sensitivity analyses, and the contribution of each source will be recorded. This protocol will be applied for 16 different systematic reviews concerning eighteen diseases (Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes mellitus, Type 1 diabetes mellitus, Acute myocardial infarction, Ischemic heart disease, Stroke, Hypertension, Heart failure, Congenital heart anomalies, Parkinson's disease, Multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Asthma, Inflammatory bowel disease, Celiac disease, Chronic kidney failure).


this protocol defines a standardized approach to extensively examine and compare all experiences of case identification algorithms in Italy, on the 18 abovementioned diseases. The methodology proposed may be applied to other systematic reviews concerning diseases not included in this project, as well as other settings, including international ones. Considering the increasing availability of healthcare data, developing standard criteria to describe and update characteristics of published algorithms would be of great use to enhance awareness in the choice of algorithms and provide a greater comparability of results.

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