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Pneumonia coding practices may skew hospital performance outcomes

Variations in coding practices related to may bias efforts to compare quality of care among , according to an article being published in .

Pneumonia is the most common reason for emergency hospitalization in the United States, making it an appropriate target for quality improvement initiatives and public reporting of quality. risk-standardized for pneumonia are publicly reported but exclude more severe cases of pneumonia, which are coded as sepsis or respiratory failure with pneumonia as a secondary diagnosis. Researchers studied hospital records for 329 U.S. hospitals to examine the effect of the on hospital .

The records showed that the risk-standardized mortality rate tended to increase when sepsis or respiratory failure were included in a broader definition of pneumonia in hospitals that assigned these codes to a greater proportion of patients and to decrease when hospitals applied these codes to a smaller proportion of cases. The researchers conclude that performance measures based on pneumonia coding may misclassify some hospitals and weaken confidence in public reporting.

Article: Variation in Diagnostic Coding of Patients With Pneumonia and Its Association With Hospital Risk-Standardized Mortality Rates: A Cross-sectional Analysis, M.B. Rothberg, P.S. Pekow, A. Priya, and P.K. Lindenauer, Annals of Internal Medicine, published 17 March 2014.


Annals of Internal Medicine