Biopsy Records Do Not Reduce Diagnosis Variability in Cancer Patient EHRs: Are We More Uncertain After Knowing?

AMIA Jt Summits Transl Sci Proc. 2018 May 18:2017:72-80. eCollection 2018.


Diagnostic codes are crucial for analyses of electronic health record (EHR) data but their accuracy and precision are often lacking. Although providers enter precise diagnoses into progress notes, billing standards may limit the particularity of a diagnostic code. Variability also arises from the creation of multiple descriptions for a particular diagnostic code. We hypothesized that the variability of diagnostic codes would be greater before surgical pathology results were recorded in the medical record. A well annotated cohort of patients with brain neoplasms was studied. After diagnostic pathology reporting, the odds of more distinct diagnostic descriptions were 2.30 times higher (p=0.00358), entropy in diagnostic sequences was 2.26 times higher (p=0.0259) and entropy in diagnostic precision scores was 15.5 times higher (p=0.0324). Although diagnostic codes became more distinct on average after diagnostic pathology reporting, there was a paradoxical increase in the variability of the codes selected. Researchers must be aware of the inconsistencies and variability in particularity in structured diagnostic coding despite the presence of a definitive diagnosis.