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Identifying individuals with physician-diagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary care electronic medical records: a retrospective chart abstraction study


Little is known about using electronic medical records to identify patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to improve quality of care. Our objective was to develop electronic medical record algorithms that can accurately identify patients with obstructive pulmonary disease. A retrospective chart abstraction study was conducted on data from the Electronic Medical Record Administrative data Linked Database (EMRALD®) housed at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Abstracted charts provided the reference standard based on available physician-diagnoses, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-specific medications, smoking history and pulmonary function testing. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease electronic medical record algorithms using combinations of terminology in the cumulative patient profile (CPP; problem list/past medical history), physician billing codes (chronic bronchitis/emphysema/other chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and prescriptions, were tested against the reference standard. Sensitivity, specificity, and positive/negative predictive values (PPV/NPV) were calculated. There were 364 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease identified in a 5889 randomly sampled cohort aged ≥ 35 years (prevalence = 6.2%). The electronic medical record algorithm consisting of ≥ 3 physician billing codes for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease per year; documentation in the CPP; tiotropium prescription; or ipratropium (or its formulations) prescription and a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease billing code had sensitivity of 76.9% (95% CI:72.2-81.2), specificity of 99.7% (99.5-99.8), PPV of 93.6% (90.3-96.1), and NPV of 98.5% (98.1-98.8). Electronic medical record algorithms can accurately identify patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary care records. They can be used to enable further studies in practice patterns and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease management in primary care.



Lee TM, Tu K, Wing LL, Gershon AS. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2017; 27(1):34.

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