The accuracy of clinical data: a comparison between central and local data collection

Surgeon. 2007 Oct;5(5):275-8. doi: 10.1016/s1479-666x(07)80025-4.


Background: The recent liberalisation of public access to information, including surgical performance, emphasises the necessity for accurate data collection. The Information and Statistics Division of the Scottish Executive (ISD) collect such data for each patient episode, but there is concern about the reliability of this information compared with that collected in local surgical departmental audit.

Aim: To determine if diagnostic and operative details were consistent between local audited and national non-audited data sets.

Methods: Three surgical units comprising eight consultants were studied. Epidemiological, diagnostic and operative data for each consultant were accessed from the eScrips Internet resource (ISD Data) and from the departmental database. A unique patient number and date of birth matched individual patient episodes and the correlation between datasets graded for accuracy and consistency.

Results: 8375 individual data entries were recorded (ISD 4642, local databases 3733). 3402 pairs, 6408 (76.5%) of the total, matched accurately. 742 (16%) of the ISD entries were duplicates, and in 21% of unpaired entries the wrong consultant was recorded. Overall a clinically acceptable match occurred in 86.9% of paired entries for diagnosis and 84.0% for operation. The highest match with ISD data for diagnosis (88.8%) and operation (91.8%) occurred in the unit which holds a weekly audit meeting to validate information.

Discussion: There are significant discrepancies in surgical data between the local audit databases and central data. There is significant duplication of entries and inaccurate consultant allocation in ISD data. The promulgation of inaccurate information could threaten reputation or career and clinicians should play a more active role in ensuring clinical data are correct.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Forms and Records Control
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Records*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Scotland