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Can chemotherapy-related acute care visits be accurately identified in administrative data?


Purpose — There is increasing interest in using administrative data to examine treatment-related complications that lead to emergency department (ED) visits or hospitalizations (H). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the reliability of billing codes for identifying chemotherapy-related acute care visits (CRVs) among women with early-stage breast cancer.

Materials and Methods — The cohort was identified by using deterministically linked health databases and consisted of women who were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer who started adjuvant chemotherapy between 2007 and 2009 in Ontario, Canada. A random sample of 496 patient cases was chosen as the validation cohort. Sensitivity (SN) and specificity (SP) were calculated for three scenarios: chemotherapy-related ED visit, chemotherapy-related H, and febrile neutropenia (FN)–related visit. For FN-related visits, three definitions were considered: general, moderate, and strict.

Results — The administrative cohort consisted of 8,359 patients, 43.4% of whom had at least one ED or H, including 1,496 women who had multiple visits that resulted in 6,293 unique visits. Of these, 73.1% were considered CRVs. The algorithm performed well in identifying CRVs that included H either from ED (SN, 90%; SP, 100%) or directly from home (SN, 91%; SP, 93%), but less well for ED visits that did not result in H (SN, 65%; SP, 80%). Depending on which FN algorithm was used, 4.8% to 24% of visits were considered related. The moderate FN algorithm provided the best tradeoff between SN (69% to 97%) and SP (83% to 98%).

Conclusion — Administrative data can be valuable in evaluating chemotherapy-related serious events. Algorithm validation in other cohorts is needed.



Krzyzanowska MK, Enright K, Moineddin R, Yun L, Powis M, Ghannam M, Grunfeld E. J Oncol Pract. 2018; 14(1):e51-8. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

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