Evaluation of the accuracy of diagnostic coding for influenza compared to laboratory results: the availability of test results before hospital discharge facilitates improved coding accuracy

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2021 May 22;21(1):168. doi: 10.1186/s12911-021-01531-9.


Background: Assessing the accuracy of diagnostic coding is essential to ensure the validity and reliability of administrative coded data. The aim of the study was to evaluate the accuracy of assigned International Classification of Diseases version 10-Australian Modification (ICD-10-AM) codes for influenza by comparing with patients' results of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based laboratory tests.

Method: A retrospective study was conducted across seven public hospitals in New South Wales, Australia. A total of 16,439 patients who were admitted and tested by either cartridge-based rapid PCR or batched multiplex PCR between January 2016 and December 2017 met the inclusion criteria. We calculated the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) of ICD-10-AM coding using laboratory results as a gold standard. Separate analyses were conducted to determine whether the availability of test results at the time of hospital discharge influenced diagnostic coding accuracy.

Results: Laboratory results revealed 2759 positive influenza cases, while ICD-10-AM coding identified 2527 patients. Overall, 13.7% (n = 378) of test positive patients were not assigned an ICD-10-AM code for influenza. A further 5.8% (n = 146) patients with negative test results were incorrectly assigned an ICD-10-AM code for influenza. The sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of ICD-10-AM coding were 93.1%; 98.9%; 94.5% and 98.6% respectively when test results were received before discharge and 32.7%; 99.2%; 87.8% and 89.8% respectively when test results were not available at discharge. The sensitivity of ICD-10-AM coding varied significantly across hospitals. The use of rapid PCR or hospitalisation during the influenza season were associated with greater coding accuracy.

Conclusion: Although ICD-10-AM coding for influenza demonstrated high accuracy when laboratory results were received before discharge, its sensitivity was substantially lower for patients whose test results were not available at discharge. The timely availability of laboratory test results during the episode of care could contribute to improved coding accuracy.

Keywords: Diagnostic accuracy; Diagnostic codes; ICD-10-AM; Influenza diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Clinical Coding
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human* / diagnosis
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Laboratories
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies