ICD-9-CM codes hold key to patient safety


With large-scale analysis, ICD-9-CM codes, used to indicate medical diagnoses in billing records, can point to patient safety improvement opportunities.

That is the view of Dr Jennifer Taylor, an associate professor at Drexel University School of Public Health, who recently demonstrated a systematic analysis of hospital administrative data to establish patterns in patient safety events.

Taylor and colleagues analysed large-scale data on hospital stays recorded in discharge data in Pennsylvania during one year. They compared hospital stays with and without patient safety events, to describe patterns, demographics and differences associated with such events.

They found that nine per cent of the hospital discharges in Pennsylvania in 2006 were for stays with a patient safety event. On average, patients who experienced an adverse event were older, white and male; patient safety events added an average of $35,000 to the cost, and three days to the length, of a hospital stay.

Taylor believes that this kind of study opens the door for major improvements to patient safety – simply by examining data that already exists. The ICD-9-CM codes provide a population-level picture of many preventable and non-preventable adverse events, such as previously unknown allergic reactions to drugs.

“The one thing I think is important for people to know is that they have these data now and they can start looking,” said Taylor. “I think it’s very empowering that you don’t have to build a new system. It’s not perfect, it’s not always complete but it’s the best thing we’ve got going and I think people should start looking at it.”

discharge, hospital, ICD-9-CM,records, safety