The quality of cause-of-injury data: where hospital records fall down

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2006 Dec;30(6):509-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2006.tb00777.x.


Objectives: This research identifies the level of specificity of cause-of-injury morbidity data in Australia. The research explores reasons for poor-quality data across different causes-of-injury areas, including a lack of clinical documentation and insufficient detail in the classification system.

Methods: The 2002/03 hospital morbidity dataset of 593,079 injury-related hospital admissions was analysed to examine the specificity of coded external cause-of-injury data.

Results: While overall specificity appeared high, the cause of 47,660 injuries was not specifically defined according to the code assigned. Only 56% of cases for whom injury was the result of an accidental fall were assigned a specific code to identify the causal detail; 19% were assigned an 'Other Specified' fall code, suggesting a lack of specific code availability; and 25% were assigned an 'Unspecified Fall' code, suggesting a lack of clinical documentation to facilitate code selection.

Conclusions: To improve the quality of injury-related hospital morbidity data, two main areas to focus resources are: 1) the development of more specific cause-of-injury codes; and 2) the provision of more detailed documentation from clinicians.

Implications: Clinicians and clinical coders need to work together to improve the quality of injury-related coded data through the provision of specific codes and improved clinical documentation. Accurate and comprehensive data pertaining to the circumstances surrounding hospitalised injury events will benefit injury prevention and surveillance initiatives, provide justification for resources related to injury hospitalisation, and assist in external cause research in Australia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Documentation / standards
  • Female
  • Forms and Records Control / standards*
  • Hospital Records / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Quality Control
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology*