Intra-database validation of case-identifying algorithms using reconstituted electronic health records from healthcare claims data

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2021 May 1;21(1):95. doi: 10.1186/s12874-021-01285-y.


Background: Diagnosis performances of case-identifying algorithms developed in healthcare database are usually assessed by comparing identified cases with an external data source. When this is not feasible, intra-database validation can present an appropriate alternative.

Objectives: To illustrate through two practical examples how to perform intra-database validations of case-identifying algorithms using reconstituted Electronic Health Records (rEHRs).

Methods: Patients with 1) multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses and 2) metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) were identified in the French nationwide healthcare database (SNDS) using two case-identifying algorithms. A validation study was then conducted to estimate diagnostic performances of these algorithms through the calculation of their positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV). To that end, anonymized rEHRs were generated based on the overall information captured in the SNDS over time (e.g. procedure, hospital stays, drug dispensing, medical visits) for a random selection of patients identified as cases or non-cases according to the predefined algorithms. For each disease, an independent validation committee reviewed the rEHRs of 100 cases and 100 non-cases in order to adjudicate on the status of the selected patients (true case/ true non-case), blinded with respect to the result of the corresponding algorithm.

Results: Algorithm for relapses identification in MS showed a 95% PPV and 100% NPV. Algorithm for mCRPC identification showed a 97% PPV and 99% NPV.

Conclusion: The use of rEHRs to conduct an intra-database validation appears to be a valuable tool to estimate the performances of a case-identifying algorithm and assess its validity, in the absence of alternative.

Keywords: Case-identifying algorithm; Claims database; Multiple sclerosis; Negative predictive value; Positive predictive value; Prostate Cancer; Reconstituted electronic health record; Validation study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Databases, Factual
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local*