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Validating viral hepatitis B and C diagnosis codes: a retrospective analysis using Ontario’s health administrative data


Objective — We aimed to determine the criterion validity of using diagnosis codes for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) to identify infections.

Methods — Using linked laboratory and administrative data in Ontario, Canada, from January 2004 to December 2014, we validated HBV/HCV diagnosis codes against laboratory-confirmed infections. Performance measures (sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value) were estimated via cross-validated logistic regression and we explored variations by varying time windows from 1 to 5 years before (i.e., prognostic prediction) and after (i.e., diagnostic prediction) the date of laboratory confirmation. Subgroup analyses were performed among immigrants, males, baby boomers, and females to examine the robustness of these measures.

Results — A total of 1,599,023 individuals were tested for HBV and 840,924 for HCV, with a resulting 41,714 (2.7%) and 58,563 (7.0%) infections identified, respectively. HBV/HCV diagnosis codes ± 3 years of laboratory confirmation showed high specificity (99.9% HBV; 99.8% HCV), moderate positive predictive value (70.3% HBV; 85.8% HCV), and low sensitivity (12.8% HBV; 30.8% HCV). Varying the time window resulted in limited changes to performance measures. Diagnostic models consistently outperformed prognostic models. No major differences were observed among subgroups.

Conclusion — HBV/HCV codes should not be the only source used for monitoring the population burden of these infections, due to low sensitivity and moderate positive predictive values. These results underscore the importance of ongoing laboratory and reportable disease surveillance systems for monitoring viral hepatitis in Ontario.



Yasseen III AS, Kwong JC, Kustra R, Holder L, Chung H, Macdonald L, Janjua NZ, Mazzulli T, Feld J, Crowcroft NS. Can J Public Health. 2021; 112(3):502-12. Epub 2021 Jan 8.

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