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Comparison of Administrative versus Electronic Health Record-based Methods for Identifying Sepsis Hospitalizations.

Karlic KJ, Clouse TL, Hogan CK, Garland A, Seelye S, Sussman JB, Prescott HC. Comparison of Administrative versus Electronic Health Record-based Methods for Identifying Sepsis Hospitalizations. Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2023 Sep 1; 20(9):1309-1315.

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Despite the importance of sepsis surveillance, no optimal approach for identifying sepsis hospitalizations exists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adult Sepsis Event Definition (CDC-ASE) is an electronic medical record-based algorithm that yields more stable estimates over time than diagnostic coding-based approaches but may still result in misclassification. We sought to assess three approaches to identifying sepsis hospitalizations, including a modified CDC-ASE. This cross-sectional study included patients in the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System admitted via the emergency department (February 2021 to February 2022) with at least one episode of acute organ dysfunction within 48?hours of emergency department presentation. Patients were assessed for community-onset sepsis using three methods: ) explicit diagnosis codes, ) the CDC-ASE, and ) a modified CDC-ASE. The modified CDC-ASE required at least two systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria instead of blood culture collection and had a more sensitive definition of respiratory dysfunction. Each method was compared with a reference standard of physician adjudication via medical record review. Patients were considered to have sepsis if they had at least one episode of acute organ dysfunction graded as "definitely" or "probably" infection related on physician review. Of 821 eligible hospitalizations, 449 were selected for physician review. Of these, 98 (21.8%) were classified as sepsis by medical record review, 103 (22.9%) by the CDC-ASE, 132 (29.4%) by the modified CDC-ASE, and 37 (8.2%) by diagnostic codes. Accuracy was similar across the three methods of interest (80.6% for the CDC-ASE, 79.6% for the modified CDC-ADE, and 84.2% for diagnostic codes), but sensitivity and specificity varied. The CDC-ASE algorithm had sensitivity of 58.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 47.2-68.1%) and specificity of 86.9% (95% CI, 82.9-90.2%). The modified CDC-ASE algorithm had greater sensitivity (69.4% [95% CI, 59.3-78.3%]) but lower specificity (81.8% [95% CI, 77.3-85.7%]). Diagnostic codes had lower sensitivity (32.7% [95% CI, 23.5-42.9%]) but greater specificity (98.6% [95% CI, 96.7-99.55%]). There are several approaches to identifying sepsis hospitalizations for surveillance that have acceptable accuracy. These approaches yield varying sensitivity and specificity, so investigators should carefully consider the test characteristics of each method before determining an appropriate method for their intended use.

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