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Causes of injuries resulting in hospitalisation in Australia: assessing coder agreement on external causes


Objective: To assess extent of coder agreement for external causes of injury using ICD-10-AM for injury-related hospitalisations in Australian public hospitals.

Methods: A random sample of 4850 discharges from 2002 to 2004 was obtained from a stratified random sample of 50 hospitals across four states in Australia. On-site medical record reviews were conducted and external cause codes were assigned blinded to the original coded data. Code agreement levels were grouped into the following agreement categories: block level, 3-character level, 4-character level, 5th-character level, and complete code level.

Results: At a broad block level, code agreement was found in over 90% of cases for most mechanisms (eg, transport, fall). Percentage disagreement was 26.0% at the 3-character level; agreement for the complete external cause code was 67.6%. For activity codes, the percentage of disagreement at the 3-character level was 7.3% and agreement for the complete activity code was 68.0%. For place of occurrence codes, the percentage of disagreement at the 4-character level was 22.0%; agreement for the complete place code was 75.4%.

Conclusions: With 68% agreement for complete codes and 74% agreement for 3-character codes, as well as variability in agreement levels across different code blocks, place and activity codes, researchers need to be aware of the reliability of their specific data of interest when they wish to undertake trend analyses or case selection for specific causes of interest.

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